1997 August

Call for Europe-wide “Boycott United” campaign

United Airlines Refuses Gay Partnership Benefits

The main corporate sponsor of London’s 1997 Gay Pride Festival, United Airlines, has been exposed as pursuing antigay employment policies.

The gay rights group OutRage! is calling for a Europe-wide “Boycott United” campaign, in protest at United Airlines’ refusal to give spousal benefits to the partners of its gay employees. “Extending the existing U.S. boycott campaign to Europe will put United Airlines under increased pressure to halt its discrimination,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

United Airlines had adverts in the official Pride Programme, proclaiming its gay-friendly credentials. At the Pride Festival on Clapham Common, United’s logo was displayed on the main stage; and the airline had its own marquee, where it encouraged gay travellers to “Fly the Friendly Skies”.

Calling for a boycott, OutRage! says: “United has cynically exploited the Pride Festival for commercial gain. It wants gay customers: but it doesn’t care about gay human rights”.

United defends its position by claiming that it offers partnership benefits only to married staff, and not to unmarried couples of any sexuality. “Since there is no legal provision for gay people to get married, this policy automatically discriminates against gay employees”, said Peter Tatchell.

United is suing San Francisco over its requirement that all companies doing business with the city must grant same-sex partnership benefits. United argues that no city has the legal authority to determine the employment policies of national or multinational corporations. “What’s happening in San Francisco is irrelevant”, said Peter Tatchell. United was refusing spousal benefits five years before the city introduced its policy. If United were a gay-friendly company, it would willingly grant gay partnership rights, irrespective of the legal rights or wrongs of San Francisco’s policy.

“OutRage! is urging gay travellers and travel agents –and their straight friends– to boycott United. Our spending power has the potential to hurt the airline financially. In the highly competitive airline industry, even a small drop in revenue can have a big impact and force a change in policy”, said Mr. Tatchell.

OutRage!, with the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, is urging everyone to alert their local gay press and and gay rights organisations about the Boycott United campaign, so we can exert pressure on the airline right across Europe. We are also requesting people to write a letter of protest to the Head of United, Worldwide:

Gerald Greenwald,
Chief Executive,
United Airlines,
United House,
South Perimeter Road,
Hounslow.
TW6 3LP
United Kingdom
or to his USA HQ:

Gerald Greenwald,
Chief Executive,
United Airlines,
1200, Algonquin Road,
P.O. Box 66100,
Chicago,
Illinois 60666,
USA.

Postscript
Recipients of this call to action included two leading gay travel agents in the UK, In Touch Holidays and Uranian Travel. Uranian Travel confirmed (13-August-1997) that they had already ceased to do any business with United Airlines. In Touch Holidays, regrettably, are not actively supporting the boycott: although they state that in fact they do very little business with United.

Over 30 trade journals and magazines serving the U.K. travel industry and business community have now been alerted to the conflict at United Airlines.

Union support for “Boycott United” campaign

Letter to OutRage! from Association of Flight Attendants

ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS AFL-CIO
United Airlines Cargo Centre,
Shoreham Road East,
Heathrow Airport,
Hounslow TW6 3RD United Kingdom.

As the elected union representative of 900 cabin crew working for United Air Lines at Heathrow, I would like to offer thanks to you and OutRage! for your actions concerning spousal benefits for the partners of gay employees at United.

It has been a long-standing objective of mine to achieve these benefits for all employees with partners. During 1992, we assisted a Heathrow-based gay member of United’s staff who was a Dutch national living in Holland with his partner. We attempted to secure partnership rights for him through both internal grievance procedures and a Dutch Tribunal: but the company resisted at every turn! Since 1992 we have tried to achieve gay spousal benefits through negotiations: but again the company continues to resist.

Your interpretation of United’s stance in San Francisco is spot on! The legal action by United in San Francisco is merely a ruse and a diversion to disguise United’s long-term opposition to gay partnership benefits. This opposition predates the current legal action by at least five years. Moreover, it is absolutely incredulous that United believes itself to be exempt from local laws. I dare say that some ‘local’ judge in San Francisco may think differently. Regardless, United’s rationale that it is not discriminatory against gay employees is shallow and deceptive. Unied correctly claims that its policy offers partnership benefits to married people only. This policy is, of course, inherently discriminatory since the entire community of gay employees are excluded, as only heterosexuals have the option of marriage. United refuses to recognise this truth.

While United claims to be reviewing its policy, this company does not traditionally make policy changes such as this willingly. Whether it is the pressure of adverse publicity of the economic impact of a boycott, United tends to respond to pressures involving loss of revenue or increased costs.

We shall all hope that pressures from many different angles will cause United to see the wisdom of amending its policy to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. I do hope that you are successful in convincing many of United’s potential customers to write to United’s CEO, Mr. Jerry Greenwald, to express their concern that United maintains this antiquated policy.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin P. Creighan
Local President
Association of Flight Attendants
Council 07 — London Heathrow Airport

OutRage!, with the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, is continuing to urge everyone to alert their local gay press and and gay rights organisations about the Boycott United campaign, so we can exert pressure on the airline right across Europe. We are also requesting people to write a letter of protest to the Head of United, Worldwide:

Gerald Greenwald,
Chief Executive,
United Airlines,
United House,
South Perimeter Road,
Hounslow.
TW6 3LP
United Kingdom

or to his USA HQ:

Gerald Greenwald,
Chief Executive,
United Airlines,
1200, Algonquin Road,
P.O. Box 66100,
Chicago,
Illinois 60666,
USA.

Update — 30-August-1997
Over 30 trade journals and magazines serving the U.K. travel industry and business community have now been alerted to the conflict at United Airlines.

An Open Letter to the Pride Trust

While we are immensely appreciative of the work done by the staff and volunteers of the Pride Trust, we are dismayed by the recent trend to dumb-down and de-gay Pride.

  • Each year’s Pride events should have a different, concrete human rights theme, such as “Equal Age of Consent”, “Partnership Recognition”, “Equality at Work”, and “Parenting Rights”. These are broad-based human rights demands which the whole community can support. Having a tangible human rights theme would give Pride events a focus, strengthen the sense of community spirit on the day, and increase the likelihood of mainstream news coverage.
  • Each year’s theme should be included on all publicity and advertising, and spelt out on a massive banner at the front of the March and above the main stage at the Festival.
  • The Pride organisers should provide at least a couple of hundred placards emblazoned with the year’s human rights theme to be carried by people near the front of the March.
  • All stage performers should be required to sign a general declaration of support for equality, which would be printed in the official Pride Programme and circulated to the media. They should also be asked to say a few brief words from the stage in support of the human rights theme of the year, (as in “Hi! I’m Kylie, and I’m proud to support an equal age of consent”).
  • All commercial sponsors should be required to sign a general declaration of support for equality, which would be printed in the official Pride Programme and circulated to the media. Sponsorship should be accepted only on the condition that the company’s lesbian and gay staff receive equal treatment in all aspects of employment.

If performers and commercial sponsors are not prepared to support equality, we don’t want them at Pride. Those who don’t respect our community should not be given a platform.

Yours sincerely,

David Allison, Peter Tatchell, and Alastair Williams