Local 1155L’s Jamie Martinez and the Fight for Life-Saving Care


The following article is part of the Stories of Pride profile series by the USW LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee.

As a Trans person and a worker, Jamie Martinez (they/them) knows that the struggle for dignity and respect is never over. Recently the Local 1155L member engaged in one of the most important battles of their life when fighting for gender-affirming care.

When starting their transitioning journey, Martinez was focused primarily on top surgery. Their first call was to their insurance company, who told Martinez that their policy excluded gender-affirming procedures. 

“It is critical that gender-affirming care is accessible to folks like me,” said Martinez, who works at Bridgestone-Firestone in Tennessee. “It’s life-changing and, in many cases, life-saving. To be told there was a specific exclusion preventing me from getting the care I needed was absolutely devastating.”

Fortunately, this is not where the story ends.

After several weeks of reaching out to various USW siblings for advice, working with their local P&I rep, and reading through the union’s collective bargaining agreement and insurance policies, Martinez discovered that the company’s non-union employees did not have the same gender-affirming care exclusion as bargaining unit members.

Martinez then brought the company’s human resources department into the conversation, and after several more weeks of back and forth, together they were able to eliminate the exclusion in the union members’ insurance policy.  

Immediately, a weight lifted from Martinez’s shoulders.

“At multiple points during this whole ordeal, I didn’t believe it was possible,” said Martinez. “This change has greatly improved my mental health and overall well-being.”

Martinez also noted that this benefit will trickle down to future members and any dependents who need similar care. “This isn’t just about me,” they said. 

The support from other union siblings, even if it was simply a few words of encouragement, were also vital to this victory. Martinez said no member should engage in a fight like this on their own.

“While ‘no’ was the first answer I got, ‘yes’ was the only one I accepted,” said Martinez. “Familiarize yourself with your CBA and policies. Get involved with your local. Ask for help. And never, ever give up standing for what is right.”

Click here to view and download model contract language specific to LGBTQ+ protections.

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