Calling it a “a hidden and underreported issue ” in Seattle, City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant introduced a bill to outlaw caste discrimination in the city.
“Caste discrimination doesn’t only take place in other countries. It is faced by South Asian American and other immigrant working people in their workplaces, including in the tech sector, in Seattle and in cities around the country,” she said during a broadcast of a news conference streamed by The Seattle Channel.
She says the social hierarchy is common in India and prevents interaction between the classes and leads to discrimination in employment, education and economic opportunities.
The Seattle Times reports her bill would add caste to the protected class that now includes gender, age, race and sexual orientation.
Several universities have added protections for those considered in the lower caste, but Geek Wire reports Seattle would be first city in the nation to do so.
“South Asians are a critical part of the city of Seattle, because of the tech industry, because of the universities here,” software engineer Samir Khobragade said. “When we Indians come to the U.S., we bring our biases with us, and we get away with the discriminatory behavior because people in the U.S. do not know how to spot this discriminatory behavior.”
Fox13 reports that the Alphabet Workers Union is supporting Sawant’s legislation.
“Caste-oppressed workers face many barriers throughout the tech industry, including at Alphabet,” the statement said. “Caste is a system of oppression analogous to racial discrimination and is rampant throughout many American institutions. We support tech workers around the world who are speaking up about casteism and hostile workplaces.”
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