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DECEMBER 14, 1998   6:59 PM
CONTACT: Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Campaign Supports Boycott Against United Airlines; United Airlines Guilty Of Blatant Discrimination, According to Human Rights Campaign
WASHINGTON - December 14 - The Human Rights Campaign endorsed a boycott today organized by a San Francisco-based group, Equal Benefits Advocates, against United Airlines for their aggressive fight to deny gay and lesbian Americans bereavement leave, family leave and equal travel benefits. The boycott was also spurred by United's connected action with the Pat Robertson-created, American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), to bring down San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance.

"We have rarely seen anything so appalling in over a decade of gay and lesbian workplace organizing," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "It is particularly unconscionable that this airline is fighting bereavement leave for their employees. Clearly, United has redefined corporate irresponsibility and they ought to fasten their seatbelts, because they should expect a great deal of turbulence in the upcoming months caused by their unfair treatment of gays and lesbians."

In June 1997, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law that requires companies doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to workers with domestic partners as they give to married employees. United joined the Air-Transport Association, an industry group representing the nations major airlines, in a lawsuit seeking to ban San Francisco from forcing them to comply with the ordinance since most airlines contend that they only have to follow federal government mandates.

In April 1998, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that San Francisco could not require the airlines to provide health benefits and pension benefits to their employees and their employees' partners. But the judge also ruled that they would have to provide other benefits, such as bereavement leave and equal travel benefits.

"United Airlines has elected to fight even these basic tenets of fairness in court, falsely claiming that extending benefits would place a great financial burden on the company. Particularly disconcerting to HRC is United's decision to align itself with Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice. This organization continues to vigorously attack public policy initiatives offering equality to gay Americans," said David M. Smith who attended a press conference today with San Francisco leaders and announced HRC's support of the boycott.

"If there was any doubt as to where United stood on gay and lesbian equality, this was clarified when they elected to form a partnership with one of the most rabidly anti-gay organizations in America. In essence, United has joined forces with Pat Robertson to promote the unfair treatment of gay Americans," she added.

The Human Rights Campaign asks its 250,000 members to follow the following guidelines in boycotting United Airlines:

* Where a customer has a choice (and choice may be driven by price, use of frequent flyer points or availability of other flights), customers should try to fly another airline.

* If no choice exists, Equal Benefits Advocates requests the customer take the opportunity to educate United and the public by wearing a button or sticker expressing their support of the boycott.

* If United withdrawals their lawsuit, the boycott is over.

In the last decade, dozens of Fortune 500 companies have extended domestic partner coverage to their gay and lesbian employees. Some of the most successful and fastest-growing companies in the nation have taken this step, including Shell Oil, Walt Disney Company, IBM, Kodak and Microsoft.

No airline has taken the full and final step of instituting domestic partnership benefits for its employees. United is the largest airline carrier in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees and 71,000 employees elsewhere. United's intransigence may force the city to evict the airline from their San Francisco headquarters.

The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. HRC effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

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