The Stand

Union makes a difference at legal services, advocacy nonprofits

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By ERIN RADFORD, YOSEF NEGASI, CHELSEA HICKS and ELIZABETH FLAVIN


(July 3, 2019) — Many members of Nonprofit Employees United (NEU), a division of the Office & Professional Employees International Union, are employed at legal services and advocacy nonprofits. We’ve secured workplace policies and procedures that make our legal services and advocacy nonprofits more inclusive, accountable, and effective. Here are some examples of how we’ve done this.

 

Foster Manageable Workloads

 

NEU members are committed to the missions of the nonprofits we work for and want our jobs to be long-term careers. To help with this, we’ve negotiated for workplace policies to manage workloads and prevent burnout. Northwest Justice Project employees negotiated to have our employer make every effort to accommodate staff ratios of one legal assistant for every three advocates, and for employees to have the ability to request additional staff. The NEU members at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington negotiated for their employer to make every reasonable effort to provide time and support during the normal work day to take care of administrative tasks and follow-up on their work.

 

Encourage Work-Life Balance

 

Time off and the ability to use it is important for employees to balance work, family, and time for themselves. Employees at the Northwest Justice ProjectNorthwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Solidarity Center negotiated for paid parental leave that ranges from 10 to 12 weeks, and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project employees can extend their parental leave in certain circumstances with PTO. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and Solidarity Center employees also negotiated for additional leave to compensate for working extra hours. Solidarity Center employees are also entitled to additional leave before and after work travel as respite and to recognize the time spent away from families. Many NEU members have the ability to request alternative work schedules and workplace arrangements. These policies give us the ability to do things like pick up children from school or attend recurring appointments.

NEU members have also negotiated to reward years of service with extra time off. At the Northwest Justice Project, after 10 years of service employees receive four weeks of bonus vacation. Employees at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project negotiated to be eligible for sabbatical leave after six years of employment. Employees can take a sabbatical every six years of up to three months with the first 140 hours paid.

 

Promote Transparency and Accountability

 

NEU values transparency as it reveals how organizations can be improved and provides an opportunity to hold management accountable. At the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the Northwest Justice Project, NEU members have increased transparency by negotiating to be able to request the current salaries of management.

Planned Parenthood employees negotiated for a Labor Management Partnership, a committee of equal parts managers and employees to address specific workplace issues, like supply and staffing issues, as well as adequate training. This partnership allows employees and management to be involved in decisions about their work, share in the success of their efforts, and to hold each other accountable.

At the Solidarity Center, the union was able to negotiate a program to create more opportunities for staff development with management. The program is designed to hold management accountable to provide staff with their requested opportunities. This provides employees with opportunities for growth at the organization and provides the organization with employees with higher skills.

 

Create Diverse and Equitable Workplaces

 

We know there is strength in diversity. Our organizations work with people from all different walks of life, which makes it all the more important that our staff comes from a diverse array of backgrounds and cultures. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project employees negotiated for a provision that commits the organization to recruiting a diverse workforce by seeking to hire women, people of color, people from the LGBTQ community, and others with diverse backgrounds and language abilities. At the Northwest Justice Project, employees negotiated to commit their employer to the principle of equal pay for equal work. Solidarity Center employees and management are committed to diversity and inclusion, and their contract recognizes diversity is more expansive than the legal protections. Employees at the Solidarity Center established a working group which designed a program to train employees on how to effectively raise and address diversity issues.

 

Earn a Fair Return on Work

 

NEU members live in increasingly expensive cities, like Seattle, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. To keep up with rising costs, we’ve negotiated for progressive wage scales that employees move up and gain wage increases over time. Additionally, with NEU negotiated contracts, raises are guaranteed and predictable. At the Solidarity Center, the union negotiated a more transparent and clearer path for employees to request upgrades to ensure that workers are compensated for the level of work they are actually performing.

As a united group of nonprofit employees, we understand the unique challenges of working at nonprofit organizations. We’ve used our collective voice to address these challenges and make our workplaces even better. If you are a nonprofit employee interested in doing the same, contact us!


Erin Radford, Yosef Negasi, Chelsea Hicks, and Elizabeth Flavin are members of NEU. Chelsea and Elizabeth (OPEIU Local 8) work at the Northwest Justice Project, and Erin and Yosef (OPEIU Local 2) work at the Solidarity Center in Washington, D.C. 

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