Nonprofit Employees Unionize to Ensure Open Discussions about Race and Equality, Put into Action Democratic Ideals Their Organizations Represent
New York, N.Y. (Jan. 19, 2021) – Employees at the D.C.-based EMILY’s List are the latest to join the growing number of nonprofit employees choosing to be represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), AFL-CIO, and its Nonprofit Employees United (NEU).
Today, EMILY’s List management voluntarily recognized the EMILY’s List staff union through a card check process conducted by a neutral party and now will be represented by OPEIU Local 2 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Contract negotiations will begin in the coming weeks.
Since its launch in mid-2019, more than 1,000 nonprofit workers at dozens of workplaces throughout the country have organized with OPEIU’s NEU. During the COVID pandemic, OPEIU organized 530 staff at 18 nonprofit workplaces. In more than half of these organizing campaigns, the employer agreed to voluntarily recognize the union through a card check verification conducted by a neutral party.
“Nonprofit workers know empowerment from unionizing will give them more agency to advance the mission and values of their organization, and believe employers should see forming a union as a positive force for social change,” said OPEIU Organizing Director Cindy Schu.
OPEIU’s NEU was founded on the belief that devotion to social change in our communities must include justice for the workers who provide these valuable services. “Nonprofit workers organizing reflects a confidence in standing up for what’s right and demanding that working conditions reflect the values of their own agency,” Schu continued.
Voluntary recognition, as was the case at EMILY's List, avoids the often contentious and resource-depleting process of going through the Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board. Employers who demand this unnecessary government procedure often do so in contradiction to the mission and values of their organizations.
“We chose to organize because we needed dramatic and lasting structural overhaul and job clarity,” said Freddie Lambright III, a program coordinator at LYRIC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a society that honors, respects and appreciates LGBTQ youth whose employees formed a union with OPEIU Local 29 through voluntary recognition in August 2020.
Employees at the nonprofit leadership development organization Minnesota Youth Collective (MNYC) similarly sought representation with OPEIU Local 12 through voluntary recognition. “We needed a union because we wanted a collective voice,” said Kayla Shelley, training and education lead at MNYC. “It was about changing our material conditions, but equally important, many of us were drawn to our organization because we believed in its mission. As we grew closer as a staff and came to see that it was the workers that brought that mission alive, it became clear we deserved more dignity and more of a say. That’s what unionizing brought us,” Shelley said.
MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization working to build power in underrepresented youth communities, voluntarily recognized its staff union -- OPEIU Local 277 -- earlier this month. “Staff at nonprofits are often arbitrarily underpaid, overworked and alienated, but through organizing for collective bargaining rights they can bring equity and democracy to their workplace,” said Alán M. de León, an advocacy organizer at MOVE Texas. “That’s exactly what we did at MOVE Texas, and we hope to empower other nonprofits to unionize the way nonprofits before inspired us.”
The group of 57 digital advisors, campaign staffers, designers, data assistants, community engagement staff, office administrators, researchers and other classifications at EMILY’s List -- the nation’s largest resource for women in politics -- are devoted to providing a voice for women in government. They sought to form a union to ensure open and protected discussions about race and inequality in the workplace, gain transparency into salary adjustments and promotion schedules, and to put into action the democratic ideals that EMILY’s List represents, according to OPEIU Lead Organizer Grace Reckers.
“I’m inspired by my colleagues who organized during one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes and during a pandemic,” said Samantha Bauman, a digital organizer at EMILY’s list. “Unionized workspaces empower employees. Voluntary recognition is a huge achievement and I look forward to what comes next.”
ABOUT OPEIU AND ITS NONPROFIT EMPLOYEES UNITED (NEU)
The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), AFL-CIO, represents more than 103,000 working people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. Representing employees in nonprofit organizations, credit unions, hospitals, insurance agencies, colleges and universities, hotels, administrative offices and more, OPEIU is committed to advancing economic justice for working people no matter their occupation. Professional organizations and guilds affiliated with OPEIU are a diverse group that includes podiatrists, registered nurses, hypnotists, teachers, Minor League Baseball umpires and helicopter pilots. OPEIU is an affiliate of the 12.5 million-member strong AFL-CIO.
OPEIU’s Nonprofit Employees United (NEU) is the union for nonprofit employees. NEU is a collective of thousands of nonprofit union members who work in advocacy and social service organizations throughout the country.