INDIANAPOLIS — Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh attended an LGBTQ+ worked empowerment roundtable Thursday at a popular Indianapolis restaurant.
The discussion was informal. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and Secretary Walsh sat around a table at Baby’s, discussing ways to make improvements in the workplace.
“Supporting the LGBTQ community is an important part of the Biden-Harris administration,” said Walsh. “Being here in Indiana and Indianapolis and talking to the community, the concerns that are here are concerns across the country. Still a lot of concerns about the way people are being treated, whether it’s by the employer or how they’re being treated by society.”
“It was really nice to hear from Secretary Walsh that the Biden administration cares and just at a base is having the conversation,” said Ruth Hawkins, Baby’s general manager.
Hawkins was happy to host Walsh to talk about the importance of representation and improvements that need to be made in Indiana’s labor force.
“It is a fear,” said Hawkins. “Am I going to be open and am I going to be accepted?”
Hawkins says discrimination at work is common among the LGBTQ+ community.
“Members of our community are feeling uncomfortable every day and unsure, and you do have to worry,” said Hawkins. “I’ve worked for jobs where you were concerned, will I be fired because I am married to a woman?”
Hawkins says at her first job, “I was told if you come out, you need to leave.”
She says employers who discriminate find subtle ways to get rid of employees or make them feel unwelcomed by reducing hours, not treating them the same as other employees. So now, Hawkins said, “Being able to be an employer, I have the privilege to say this is a community that I am involved with that and I care about and that my employers care about, so I’m going to use my power as someone who hires people to hire people who have had bad experiences at other places.”
Hawkins says Baby’s is not only inclusive, but intentional about hiring people from diverse backgrounds.
“If you as a company want to increase your diversity, you have to recruit. You have to recruit members of the LGBTQ community, you have to recruit members of the communities of color and say we want you," she said.
The roundtable advocates called on Secretary Walsh to require diversity education and training for businesses, perhaps even providing accreditation to those that do so.
“At its most basic, change government forms so that they’re applicable to people like me who are non-binary, who are neither male or female,” Hawkins said. “Who don’t use Mr. or Ms.”
“We have some work to do,” said Sec. Walsh. “We have to go back and really kind of make people feel that they’re part of our community, part of our team. We have work to do.”