Dear Supporter Ji,
My relationship with the Sikh Coalition began 14 years ago. But my story begins even before that—on September 11, 2001.
That morning, I was going about my job as a train operator for the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA. When I pulled into the Fulton Street station and saw it filling with smoke and police officers ordering customers to stay in their cars, I made a judgment call and drove the train back out of the station and away from the danger above. Because of my actions, the MTA honored me as a “hero of 9/11.”
Unfortunately, not long after, the MTA fell victim to the fear that gripped those dark days. Among the changes they instituted was a ‘brand or segregate’ policy, requiring Sikh employees like me (as well as Muslims and other religious minorities) to either slap the MTA’s logo on our religious headcoverings or work entirely out of the public eye.
I felt like I had gone from a “hero” to a suspect overnight. For 23 years, my dastaar had never interfered with my work, and my fellow train operators, conductors, and tower operators had trusted me enough to elect me to union office three times. The MTA’s new rule threatened my dignity, when all I wanted to do was my job.
Thankfully, the Sikh Coalition was there to provide pro bono legal support as I worked to fight this new, unjust rule. And thanks to their tough, persistent legal work—the kind that your annual donations help to fund—the MTA’s ‘brand or segregate’ policy was reversed by 2012.
But the Sikh Coalition didn’t stop there.
They knew that protection for MTA workers was good, but protection for New Yorkers across our state would be even better. By working with New York state legislators and Governor Cuomo’s office, they pushed forward a bill that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to their religious attire, including grooming observations like kesh.
That bill was signed into law by the governor on August 9 of this year.
That is what the Sikh Coalition does. They work to protect Sikhs in individual legal cases while simultaneously fighting employment discrimination against all religious minorities. They’re moving us all towards a future where everyone can practice their religion freely, and where no one has to choose between the dignity of good work and the faith they hold dear.
But they can’t do it alone. So please join me in supporting this kind of work by supporting the Sikh Coalition. Your contribution could make all the difference in the next fight—and the policies and laws it ends up influencing on down the road.
In Chardi Kala,
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