In historic numbers, nonprofit employees throughout the country have chosen to come together and form a union with OPEIU. They join the growing trend of employees at nonprofit organizations unionizing to gain a say in their organization, increase transparency and raise workplace standards.
The past few months have seen unprecedented growth by our local unions. In one week alone, more than 420 employees at the National Endowment for Democracy, YouthCare, and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank chose to unionize with OPEIU. Here are their stories.
Local 29 Organizes San Francisco-Marin Food Bank
More than 100 employees at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank (SFMFB) voted overwhelmingly for representation by Local 29, unionizing to ensure greater transparency from their employer and to have the ability to participate more fully in decisions that impact their community.
The group of program coordinators, drivers, intake specialists, order builders, community fundraisers, distribution assistants and other job classifications at the San Francisco and Marin sites are devoted to providing a critical lifeline to more than 140,000 people in need every week. SFMFB has been a leader for more than 30 years in ending hunger in the Bay Area.
“In forming our union, SFMFB staff gain a stronger voice in our workplace and community. We want to ensure our colleagues, who are experts in their fields, feel empowered to voice their ideas and have an opportunity to see their impact,” said Edith Cadena, SFMFB program coordinator. “Through our union, we’ll prioritize and advocate for creating real solutions to the issues and challenges we and our communities face.”
“I’ve been at the Food Bank for 18 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes that have made me recognize the need for us to constantly deepen our commitment to each other and our community,” said Emily Citraro, SFMFB senior allocation coordinator. “We know we can do this better with representation from our union.”
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank employees with OPEIU organizers Andom “Nati” Kahsay, back row far left, and Jennifer Levine, kneeling far right.
More than 180 YouthCare Employees Vote to Join Local 8
A group of 180 youth counselors, case managers, education and employment specialists, on-call staff, outreach workers, development staff and other classifications at YouthCare have voted to join Local 8 in Seattle, Washington.
YouthCare works to end youth homelessness and to ensure young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential. Founded in 1974, it was one of the first shelters to serve runaway and homeless youth on the West Coast.
“I’ve seen so many amazing youth workers leave YouthCare because they didn’t feel heard,” said Emily Penna, program coordinator. “I am excited [for the union] to give everyone a voice to ultimately advocate to better serve our youth.”
“I stand with my coworkers in our union because it brings unity and balance into our working community,” said Niki Sebatware, youth counselor.
YouthCare employees with Local 8 organizer Corrine Cosentino, far left.
National Endowment for Democracy Stands Together with Local 2
After a ten-month organizing effort to improve transparency, achieve collective bargaining power and ensure the democratic values they espouse abroad are similarly observed in their own workplace, more than 150 employees at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) voted by overwhelming majority to join Local 2 in the Washington, D.C., area.
The newest Local 2 members are program and grant officers, compliance experts, auditors, researchers, communication specialists, public affairs officers, journalists and more, who want to ensure the private nonprofit, which has funded democratic grants internationally since its founding in 1983, remains committed to its core principles of human and labor rights. “To quote my mother, we are best when we move away from an individualized and arbitrary decision-making process to a collective and transparent one,” observed Rula Jamous, senior grants officer. “Without a formal collective unit, there was no mechanism for such participation, and so a union was the logical and rational answer.”
Excitement around the win was widespread among employees. “It’s been so meaningful to be a small part of the organization effort and to put my values into practice in the workplace. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to make this happen,” said Alex Steiner, program assistant for the Eurasia team. “We’re excited to see how collective bargaining will make a difference at the place we work every day.”
NED is the latest nonprofit to join Local 2, following the Solidarity Center, Planned Parenthood, the National Democratic Institute, PartnersGlobal and the ACLU of Maryland. See story below for more info about that recent win.
New Local 2 members at the National Endowment for Democracy with apprentice organizer Grace Reckers, far left.
ACLU of Maryland Joins Local 2
Fourteen employees of the ACLU of Maryland, including organizers, attorneys, legal fellows and assistants, and policy specialists, spent nine long months building up power and support for a union with Local 2 before winning an election with the American Arbitration Association (AAA). The recognition agreement with management and the AAA allowed the unit to technically be voluntarily recognized, albeit through an election.
The ACLU of Maryland is an affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, a progressive nonprofit that works to preserve and maintain individual freedoms. Staff routinely expressed how important it is for an organization with such dedication to civil liberties to support an employee union.
“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to negotiate a workplace that is fair and equitable for all staff,” said Justin Nalley, education policy analyst and member of the organizing committee. “The staff of the ACLU of Maryland take exercising our rights as employees as seriously as the work we produce on behalf of our clients, Maryland residents, and broader ACLU of Maryland family.
“We hope the ACLU of Maryland will hold itself to the same values we use to fight for our civil liberties every day and apply those values to our internal workplace reform,” Nalley continued. “While it is unfortunate the unionization process was met with increased distrust on the management side and has taken nearly half a year after asking for voluntary recognition, we expect the contract negotiation to be more efficient and collaborative as we all share the same goals.”
Employees of the ACLU of Maryland have voted to be represented by OPEIU Local 2.