Time for HRC to put economic justice on the gay agenda

The head of the Human Rights Campaign – Chad Griffin – is one damn smart cookie, and I wish he would put his brain to work with corporations to address economic justice issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

There’s been plenty of sucking up to the business community at the HRC, and little focus on money matters affecting low- and moderate-income LGBT people.

minimum-wageOn Monday, Dec. 30, the lead story in The New York Times was about Democratic Party leaders and 2014 congressional candidates gearing up for raising the minimum wage as an campaign issue:

Democrats prize the issue of a minimum wage increase because it would help address income inequality, which is galvanizing liberals at the moment and is popular with swing voters they will need in this year’s elections.

Sixty-four percent of independents, and even 57 percent of Republicans, said they supported increasing the minimum wage, according to a CBS News poll last month. Some 70 percent of self-described “moderates” said they also supported an increase.

That 57 percent figure for the GOP’s support of making the minimum wage more realistic startled me.

Earlier this month, I tried to elicit a statement from HRC leaders about economic justice concerns within the gay community, and all I got was silence.

Why can’t the HRC, the gay division of the Democratic Party, address such concerns?

Is it’s because of the robust six-figure salaries of the top HRC executives? Do such compensation amounts cut off their awareness of gays who don’t make that kind of money?

Or is it because the minimum wage increase doesn’t attract the attention of celebrities who appear at HRC dinners?

Thanks to the CBS News poll and the The New York Times, I know where many Republicans stand on increasing the minimum wage, versus the silence from the HRC.

Just a reminder to readers about the compensation packages at our largest political advocacy organization, here is how much HRC’s top-ten executives made last year, according to their 2013 IRS 990 filing:

  • Chad Griffin, President, started on June 11, 2012, at a base salary of $250,000, including a $20,000 incentive bonus, with an additional $50,000 bonus for an unstated reason, and $40,100 gross-up payment, for a total of $360,100.
  • Joe Solmonese, executive director through June 29, 2012, base salary of $238,300 plus $39,000 gross-up payment for a total of $277,300.

  • James Rinefierd, treasurer, base salary of $211,500 plus $64,000 gross-up payment for a total of $275,500.

  • Cathy Nelson, assistant vice president: $275,000.

  • Susanne Salkind, vice president, base salary of $212,700 plus $60,000 gross-up payment for a total of $272,700.

  • David M. Smith, vice president of programs: $250,300.

  • Fred Sainz, vice president of communications: $228,000.

  • Robert Falk, secretary, base salary of $166,500 plus $50,000 gross-up payment for a total of $216,500.

  • Allison Herwitt, legislative director: $197,500.

  • Ann Crowley, membership director: $175,000.

While HRC’s leaders are mum on increasing the minimum wage, an examination of their six most current IRS tax filings (available on their website) reveals there is one thing they very much are in favor of — giving themselves annual raises.

Will HRC make 2014 the year in which they address economic justice concerns such as a living wage, unemployment benefits and food stamps that are crucial to the safety net for millions of LGBT Americans? Yes, it could happen if enough of us demand it of the organization.

Let HRC know these concerns are on our collective “gay agenda.”

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