KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Pierce Transit staff face discipline if they don’t use ‘ze,’ ‘they’ pronouns

Mar 21, 2023, 5:19 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm

pierce transit...

Pierce Transit (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

In an effort to foster “support and belonging,” Pierce Transit leadership expects employees to use pro-nouns selected by coworkers, including “ze/zir/zirs” and “they/them/theirs.” If you don’t, you may be subject to discipline.

Amy Cleveland, the Executive Director of Administration, distributed a memo titled “Pronoun Use in the Workplace” on March 8. It read that the agency, “recognizes the importance of using an individual’s preferred pronouns at work as a form of respect and courtesy.”

The memo outlined employer expectations. In addition to using a person’s name or requested pro-noun, it says if you mistakenly use the incorrect pronoun, you should “apologize and use the correct pronoun(s) going forward.”

If a staffer is bewildered by a coworker who pretends not to have a gender, insisting you say “ze” or “they,” it’s best left unsaid. Pierce Transit said, “it is not appropriate to question people on why they use certain pronouns or what those pronouns mean.” The memo sends staff to the Human Rights Campaign homepage, which does not include information about pronouns, but left-wing political causes.

“Pierce Transit expects all employees to be respectful and courteous to others. An employee who intentionally refuses to use another person’s preferred pronouns may be subject to potential discipline,” the memo concludes.

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Bombarding employees with DEI initiatives

The pronoun memo is not the only expectation over forced language in the workplace.

On March 10, Pierce Transit held an hour-long class called “DEI Basics.” It’s part of the monthly “Inclusive Actions” initiative where the agency spends each month working to adapt new ways to be inclusive. March was focused on implementing “diversity, equity, and inclusion for shared success.” The class instructed employees on “how to incorporate [basic DEI] terms into our everyday speech.”

The pronoun memo comes with some irony. In February, the “Inclusive Action” lesson taught staff about psychological safety. It’s defined, by Pierce Transit, as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” But if an employee believes there are only two genders and refuse to use “zi/zir/zu,” it could earn a disciplinary sanction.

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Employee speaks out

One concerned employee told The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that he found the memo troubling.

“Initially, I found the memo threatening and I wondered if they ran it past legal. It’s all overwhelming,” the employee, who asked for anonymity, explained. “I just want to come to work, do my job, and go home to my family without being bombarded with constant LBGTQ propaganda, It seems like harassment. I feel that as a straight white male at this agency, I’m at a much higher risk of allegations being made against me. I know I have to be on guard at all times and practice the utmost situational awareness always. It’s scary.”

He said the agency has gone overboard with its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. So much so, he believes it has “gotten in the way of the agency upholding its responsibility to the taxpayers.” The agency even has an Equity and Engagement Manager.

As part of its DEI initiatives, Pierce Transit is holding a racial equity talk series called “Courageous Conversations.” It is wholly disconnected from transit and only presents left-wing views about race on its staff. A spokesperson explained they plan to bring in alternative viewpoints in the future, but have not yet planned those events. The agency also hosts a DEI Book Club. The selection for February and March is “The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann.

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What about transit?

Lost in the left-wing DEI agenda is a focus on the agency’s responsibility: Transit.

“Very large amounts of our tax dollars are being spent on this campaign,” the employee explained. “Many employees who have other important roles in the agency are using their time instead in these DEI efforts.”

Pierce Transit confirms they’ve budgeted between $7,000 and $8,000 for the “Courageous Conversations” talks. The employee notes that there have been “numerous dedicated hires in DEI and other related positions.” It’s led to a belief that Pierce County is tokenizing new hires — hiring them only to check a box for representation.

“I truly believe this adversely affects my opportunity for advancement in this agency. It feels like reverse discrimination.”

Pierce Transit defends stance and strategies

A Pierce Transit spokesperson tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the memo is merely about creating a respectful environment, and they don’t intend to change people’s views on gender identity.

“The agency is not insinuating that people must behave or believe certain ways in their personal lives,” communications manager Rebecca Japhet said. “But at work, if an agency employee asks to be referred to by a specific pronoun, the expectation is that other agency employees will make every effort to do so. This is just one of many workplace standards of behavior related to treating each other politely and with professionalism and respect. We expect employees to treat the public the same way, with respect, regardless of the other person’s ideology or views.”

Japhet says if someone refuses to use the requested personal pronouns, the offending employee would be reminded of expectations. But if they continue to refuse to use personal pronouns, including ones that are just sounds and not actual words, “it may proceed to other actions, such as verbal warnings and eventually written warnings.” She says the agency doesn’t anticipate reaching that point because “agency employees typically go out of their way to treat each other respectfully.”

The legality of disciplining staff over speed around gender identity, which is clearly tied to politics, is being tested in the court.

(Obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH)

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