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Community urged to lock lips against discrimination

Thu 2 May 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News

Sean Bailey Workers’ union Unite is hopeful the GLBT community will back a ‘Turn McDonald’s Gay Day’ kiss-in at an Auckland McDonald’s after a worker was told not to act gay by a manager. Sean Bailey is taking a personal grievance case and planning the protest after he was told by a manager he’d be disciplined if he ‘acted gay’ and not to try and turn anyone. The manager was forced to apologise and shunted to a different store. Bailey has the staunch backing of his Unite union rep Joe Carolan, who compares the manager’s comments to telling someone to tone down their Maori-ness or Irish-ness, or to stop being so female. “I come from Ireland, a country where Catholic priests who abused children were moved from parish to parish as a solution,” he says. “And I think McDonald’s have gone for the Catholic Church solution here. Rather than reprimand or fire someone for gross discrimination, they simply moved him to another store. “And I don’t know how gay or lesbian people at that store feel about this manager there. Will it be another couple of months before we have a similar report there?” Carolan says Bailey has been an exemplary and vocal union delegate, who has gone into bat for his co-workers over issues such as non-payment of wages and breaks not being given. “I feel he was targeted by management because of this. And then the homophobic slurs came because of his proactive role in defending his workers.” He says homophobic slurs can be a pre-cursor to assaults and even suicide, as people get very, very, depressed when they are being bullied at work. “I was very concerned when Sean felt that he was too embarrassed to return to work. He can appear to be a very tough and dynamic young man, but I do know that these things hurt very deeply. The union stands behind Sean a hundred per cent," Carolan says. “And I see he’s decided to have a Turn McDonald’s Gay Day, we will be there all of us, whether we’re Indian or Irish, whether we’re gay or straight, we’ll all stand up against homophobia together. It’s a fantastic idea. I hope the gay community in Auckland brings a little bit of boisterous colour to the campaign too.” The Turn McDonald’s Gay Day kiss-in will be held at the Britomart McDonald’s at 8PM on Friday 10 May. Queer Avengers weigh in: Bailey also has the backing of the Queer Avengers, who say they will support McDonald's workers in any action they take against discrimination and exploitation. They believe McDonald's management has tried to use homophobia to control its workers as they fight for better pay and conditions. “But if we stand up and fight back together, we can overcome this tactic," says Queer Avenger Ian Anderson, who says McDonald's is lagging behind other fast food chains in terms of conditions, and united action has worked to improve standards in other stores.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 2nd May 2013 - 2:55pm

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