By Amandeep Singh
Amandeep Singh is the Sikh Coalition’s Development Intern for Summer 2009 in New York. This press conference was his first day at work.
On June 16th 2009, the Sikh Coalition mobilized members of the press, the New York City Council and Sikh employees of the Metropolitan Transit Authority for a press conference against the MTA policy of requiring Sikh and Muslim workers to sow the MTA logo on their respective religious head wear. This “turban branding” policy was loudly rebuked by the majority of New York City Council Members and Sikh MTA workers, declaring the policy discriminatory and anti-American. Twenty-seven members of the City Council pleaded with the President of the MTA in a letter to discontinue this discriminatory policy, sending a strong message of support for the Sikh community.
The policy, which has been in place since 9/11, specifically targets Sikhs and Muslims. A Department of Justice investigation found over 200 instances of MTA employees wearing headdresses without MTA logo’s, illustrating the policy’s unfair focus on Sikh and Muslim head coverings.
The press conference was a success on all fronts, drawing media attention from Reuters, NPR, NBC, and New York City newspapers. Sikh MTA workers spoke of their years of service to the MTA, asking why they must choose between their job and religious beliefs.