Community Opposition to Potential YMCA Merger

Molly De Marco's picture

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA (CHCYMCA) is still considering entering a management services agreement (or merger) with the YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA), as evidenced by its recent passage of a motion to allow the chair of the board of directors to form a small committee to define how the CHCYMCA will work with YOTA. This is very concerning considering YOTA's lack of inclusive nondiscrimination policies, not to mention the lack of transparency being shown by the CHCYMCA board of directors, which was set to vote on a motion to begin negotiating the management services agreement before things got too hot and they opted for this motion instead.

More information can be found in this OP thread.

Community members are speaking out against a potential MSA and merger, including these three letters published today in the Chapel Hill News and a letter that Carrboro alderman Lydia Lavelle circulated to all CHCYMCA board members before their vote on the motion. The text of that letter is below:

Thank you for serving on our YMCA Board.  I recognize what a tremendous time commitment it is to serve our community, and want to applaud you for choosing such a special place to volunteer your time.  I have been a member of a YMCA for many years, and my family has been members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA since moving here in 2004.  Our two kids have participated in many programs, such as afterschool, Camp Kanata, sports camps and Middle School Madness.  We have been swimming, played racquetball, and shooting hoops at the Y.  Our son is currently a member of the Leaders Club, and our daughter (who now drives) goes to the Y nearly every day to work out.  My domestic partner, Alicia, and I use the workout equipment on a regular basis.  In short, we are a family that uses the Y in typical ways, although we are not a typical family. 

 

When I heard about the possible merger with the YMCA of the Triangle, my antenna went up, as it often does when I worry about the effect that policies may have on my family.  In my role as an elected official on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, when reviewing prospective policies or ordinances, I always make certain that our LGBT community is protected the same way that other groups that have traditionally been discriminated against are protected.  I also make certain that our LGBT community is being treated as equally as the rest of our community.   Fortunately, when I bring these matters to the attention of the rest of the Board of Aldermen, I always get a positive response, as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community has been and continues to be unfailingly supportive of the LGBT community.  We were the first communities in the state to offer domestic partner benefits, and we have long had non-discrimination policies in place in the two towns, as well as in our local school system.  I am proud that our YMCA has followed suit in this respect.  You are the stewards of these values.

 

I have two concerns about the possible merger with the YMCA of the Triangle.  I understand you will be discussing this tomorrow night at your December 14 meeting.  One is the difference in membership categorization between our YMCA and the YMCAs of the Triangle.  According to YMCA of the Triangle website, all of their Ys, except Durham, have a “Husband/Wife With Dependents” category, but no other family-style category. I called the Cary YMCA to find out how two partners and their children would become members of the Cary Y.  I was told that one adult would have to register with the family’s children, and the other adult would register as just an adult.  When I asked if this was the only way this could be done, I was told, “Well, yes, but don’t worry.  It is the same cost.”   When I called the Durham YMCA  to find out how a married couple with children could become members, the receptionist told me that they had a “Two Adults Plus Dependents” category.  I asked if that covered both married and unmarried couples, and was told yes.  When I asked why this was not shown on the website, I was told that the website must not have been updated yet.  Well, I know that Durham has been a member of the YMCA of the Triangle since 2002, and I believe this policy has been in place for quite some time.  Yet, the YMCA of the Triangle does not feel it is necessary to put this policy on its Durham website.  LGBT persons should not have to work so hard to find this information.  As I am sure you are aware, on our Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA website, it is clearly stated that couples and family memberships are available for registered domestic partners.  Frankly, I speak for many when I say this is very meaningful to us.

 

My second concern is that various applications (employment, volunteer and coaching) for the YMCA of the Triangle do not include sexual orientation on their anti-discrimination clauses.  Specifically, these applications read, “Applicants are considered for all positions with regard to race, religion, sex, national origin, age, color, or disability.”  As you are no doubt aware, our Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA applications read “It is the policy of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro YMCA to ensure equal employment opportunity as to all terms, conditions, & privileges of employment without discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, veteran status, or disability.”  We need to retain this policy.

 

I recognize that this is not an easy decision for your board.  I am well aware of all of the considerations that have to be given to a decision of this sort.  Each year, when we approve the Town budget, we have to carefully balance projected revenues with services we need to provide, as well as with the values of our community.  I read where the chair-elect of your board pointed out on www.orangepolitics.com  that to not go forward with this merger may mean not being able to “offer afterschool tutoring to struggling students in Siler City or “expand our anti-child abuse training program.”  I would submit, in response, that we have an absolute duty, first of all, to make certain our own members feel welcome to join, participate, volunteer and work at the YMCA; i.e., to make our own members feel valued. 

 

On a final note, I believe that abrogating these progressive policies will be a terrible step backward.  While we may not always feel it in North Carolina, the tide is moving forward on LGBT rights.  It is my hope that it will not be long before the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act passes, an act that will prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees.  Further, the recent vote by Raleigh City Council (emulating Carrboro, Chapel Hill and others) and other public rejections by high-ranking officials, including Republicans, against the proposed North Carolina marriage amendment are positive signs that we are heading in the right direction.

 

I hope that if we merge with the YMCA of the Triangle that it is on our terms, and that we retain our inclusive policies.  I would be happy to speak with you individually about this matter.  Thank you, and I would appreciate it if you would give my e-mail your thoughtful consideration.

 

A Facebook page will be coming soon with a petition opposing this merger if the YOTA does not bring its policies in line with those of our CHCYMCA. A community meeting is also being planned. Stay tuned.

 

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Total votes: 5

11 Comments

Mark Chilton's picture

Young man, there's a place you can go.

This morning I sent this letter to the CHC YMCA Board of Directors:Dear CHC YMCA Board Members;My children are campers at Camp Clearwater and they dearly love being a part of the CHC YMCA family.  I am not on your Board, so there are no doubt many things I don't know about your present situation, but thus far, I have heard the CHC YMCA present the following arguments in favor of going ahead with the proposed merger with YOTA:

  1. The CHC YMCA's mission makes it responsible for meeting certain recreational/educational needs of all of Orange and Chatham Counties and the present fiscal situation makes it clear that the CHC YMCA cannot meet this responsibility without being part of a larger, regional YMCA which has a broader base of financial supporters.
  2. The YMCA of the Triangle Area is not some sort of hate group, but rather has declined to take a stand on the question of LGBT participation because they are concerned about alienating some of their membership, and more importantly some of their big donors.

I have a lot of sympathy for the difficult situation you find yourselves in.  These are tough financial times for virtually everyone.  I work for a non-profit organization myself and I have served on the boards of several other non-profits in the past.  It is frustrating and disappointing to be unable to meet your organization's mission because of funding problems.But you need to hear this: You are poised to make a really big mistake.It seems to me that on bottom, those at YOTA who oppose having an LGBT non-discrimination policy are saying one of two things: Either A. that they believe that LGBT people are pedophiles, or B. that it is acceptable to indulge the prejudices of people who believe that LGBT people are pedophiles.  Both of these assertions are false and hateful.Regarding the first point, we know that the vast, vast majority of both straights and gays are not sex criminals.  Our LGBT friends and neighbors have the same loving and consensual relationships that straight families do and there is no evidence that supports the ignorant stereotype that equates homosexuality with pedophilia.  If you disagree with that conclusion, then you simply don't belong on the CHC YMCA Board of Directors because you don't understand the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community.But I already know that you don't believe in that hetero-sexist stereotype.  I know that because many years ago your board took a courageous stand against homophobia.  The question now presented is: Did you do that cynically (in order to appease a small interest group) or did you believe that your stand against homophobia was a matter of principle?  If your past decisions were made as a matter of principle, then your current decision should be easy: It's no more acceptable to indulge the prejudices of others than it is to harbor those prejudices yourself.In fact, accommodating homophobes might really be worse than being a homophobe.  As Dr. King so beautifully put it in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: “[T[he Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate . . . Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”  Prejudice is born of ignorance, which is a short-coming, but not exactly a fault; it’s not fair to blame people for their own ignorance.  But accommodating prejudice is not born of ignorance, it is born of a lack of principle.  I know you are not ignorant, and I strongly believe that you are principled.  So I urge you to stand behind your own principles.I don't know all the details of the CHC YMCA's financial situation, but some of the problem seems to be of your own creation.  At one time the CHC YMCA was responsible for meeting the needs of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.  The name of your organization makes it clear that this is the case.  You aren't the Orange-Chatham YMCA, right?  But I gather from your letters that as a part of some wrangling within the regional or national association of YMCA's you took on responsibility for the entire two-county area.  There may have been some good reasons for doing so, but if you can't make that larger mission work, then it's time to re-assess.You say you want to meet your mission across all of Orange and Chatham Counties, and I respect that goal, but how will being a part of the Y of the Triangle help you meet that goal?  Something like 10% of Americans are homosexuals, so merging with YOTA will certainly mean that you will fail to meet the mission that you say is so dear to you, as you will necessarily at some level be excluding about 10% of our community.My bottom line point is this: If you cannot meet your mission without compromising on your principles, then change your mission, not your principles.Sincerely;Mark ChiltonMayor of Carrboro

Mark Chilton's picture

Follow Up Letter to CHCYMCA

Lydia Lavelle and I met with Jerry Whortan, Dabney Grinan and Jennifer Tripani from teh CHC YMCA yesterday and this is my follow up letter:  Dear CHCYMCA leadership; I absolutely support any conversations with YOTA which lead toward changes in YOTA's employment policies and/or CHCYMCA efficiencies that do not jeopardize CHCYMCA's autonomy.  As I pointed out in our meeting yesterday, my past experience with LGBT rights issues is that many of those who live outside our community want to prevent Chapel Hill & Carrboro from providing protections for LGBT people and families.  For example, the Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in May is clearly mostly a GOP political stunt.  Almost all of the provisions in the proposed amendment are a re-statement of existing NC and Federal statutes, but it does have one practical effect: It forces Chapel Hill & Carrboro to cease treating LGBT employees equally.  That is included because the purportedly-Religious Right cannot stand to see there be anywhere in NC where homosexuals are treated equally.  And that sort of thing is what worries me. My point is that my main concern regarding the Y is about merging with YOTA without clarity that YOTA is on the same page with regard to LGBT rights.  My letter was based on the belief that the CHCYMCA Board was close to considering such a merger, but it sounds like that is not such an immediate prospect.  I think if we can get to the point (as I believe that we someday will) where YOTA's values are completely aligned with CHCYMCA's values on this issue, then I think the merger issue would be something that I have no particular opinion about (i.e. it would really just be an issue for your Board and membership to decide what is best for the organization).  It is unfortunate that in the meantime this issue has caused you so much grief, but I think the whole discussion serves to demonstrate that LGBT Rights are an essential issue for our community.  Good luck and thanks for taking the time to meet with Alderman Lavelle and me. Sincerely; -Mark Chilton

Mia Burroughs's picture

Not yet and my personal view

I don't think anyone from the County has weighed in yet.  I imagine it
will come to their attention through the non-profit funding process.  It
will behoove all local governments in Orange County to consider whether
they should have policies which prohibit use of subcontractors (or
gifts to grantees) who don't have their own policies against
discrimination based on sexual orientation.  At some point, I will
encourage the School Board to take a look at this question.

Regarding my own personal membership at the CHC YMCA, I will stay with
them and keep advocating on this as long as their employees are
protected by policy against discrimination based on sexual oriention. 
If they merge with Y of the Triangle,  and if at that time the Y of the
Triangle hasn't changed their policy on this issue, I will resign. 

My ongoing concern is that I was told by the CHC YMCA Board Chair that
the vast majority of management services contracts end up becoming
mergers.  This situation can be considered different from other
potential mergers because the CHC YMCA is in sound financial condition. 
I heard a CHC YMCA Board leader say, however, that  YOTA would not
invest all this time and energy if they didn't want this to end in a
merger. I personally will keep asking these questions until YOTA changes
its policy to include sexual orientation in its employment policies or
the discussions come to an end. 

Interesting idea

Mia,I think it is an interesting idea to look at prohibiting the use of subcontractors (or gifts to grantees) who don't have their own policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But my guess is that if the school board or local governments looked into this they might have a bit more sympathy with the Y. I bet that it would be expensive to only deal with such subcontractors or suppliers. You know how hard it is to balance budgets. The cost of such a policy might mean further cuts to the schools (such as assistants, foreign language instruction, afterschool programs or fill in the blank with your favorite program that is always on the chopping block). It would be a hard choice and worth thinking carefully about.

Mia Burroughs's picture

82-10 Via WCHL

Poll: NC Residents Oppose Employer Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation
Anne Brenner Reporting
Additional Reporting by Walter Storholt

CHAPEL HILL-The Martin Luther King Jr. day holiday brings to light
the issue of discrimination—and one recent poll shows most local
residents are against at least one type of discrimination in the
workplace.

According to the Public Policy Polling
survey, an overwhelming portion of North Carolina voters believe
employers shouldn’t be permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual
orientation. Public Policy Polling Analyst Jim Williams says those
results are encouraging.

“We were pleased to see that it was fairly overwhelming result of 82 to 10 percent of North Carolina voters,” he says.

The issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation is a hot-button
in topic in the Triangle right now; as representatives from the Chapel
Hill-Carrboro YMCA continue to discuss a possible merger with the YMCA
of the greater Triangle, opponents of the deal have
noted that the Triangle YMCA has not publically taken a stance about
whether to have a non-discrimination policy for the LGBT community.

Williams says the poll surveyed residents from all over the state and
more generally addressed the issue of employer discrimination based on
sexual orientation, but the local controversy surround the YMCA merger
was part of what prompted the survey to be conducted.

“There are quite a few people who are concerned about the discrepancies
between the discrimination policies of the two organizations,” he says.
“So, we wanted to get a handle on how North Carolina voters feel about
workplace discrimination in general.”

Eighty-five percent of Democratic respondents believe that employers
shouldn’t be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation;
for comparison’s sake, 82 percent of independents and 76 percent of
Republicans agree.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is also at the
forefront of North Carolina politics for another reason—this May, North
Carolinians will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage in the state. As Election Day draws closer, Williams says the
poll numbers on this topic might change.

“As the issue heats up and becomes more at the forefront of people’s
consciousness, we might see some movement,” he says. “Numbers on that
issue are moving pretty quickly nationally and even in North Carolina in
terms of more acceptance for gay marriage and civil unions.”

The poll surveyed 780 North Carolina voters from January 5 through January 8. http://www.chapelboro.com/Poll-Says-NC-Residents-Oppose-Employer-Discrim...