Pictured NEU members employed at Plymouth Housing, Phoebe Feldsher, Sakai Kearse, and John Meadows

By Roberta Petersen and David Olivera, Solid Ground employees and NEU members, and Phoebe Feldsher, Plymouth Housing employee and NEU member

We are a united group of nonprofit employees working to build sustainable careers and ensure our nonprofit organizations succeed. We’ve launched a campaign with our union – the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) – called Nonprofit Employees United (NEU) that helps nonprofit employees like us improve their workplaces by joining together in union. Here are some examples of what NEU members have achieved in their nonprofit workplaces.

Develop safety standards and procedures to protect employees

Many of our organizations treat and help those dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. Sometimes client interactions threaten our mental and physical safety. Being prepared with proper training creates safer workplaces. To improve workplace safety, NEU members at Compass Housing Alliance negotiated for deadlines for employee trainings with some needing to occur in the first 60 work days and others within the first year of employment.

Due to the nature of our work, sometimes risky and upsetting situations are unavoidable. We know the importance of having time off to recover from a workplace incident. That’s why NEU members at the Low Income Housing Institute, Plymouth Housing, and the Compass Housing Alliance negotiated for leave after traumatic workplace events, such as violent behavior or death of a client at work.

Another danger associated with many of our jobs is exposure to pathogens. Compass Housing Alliance employees are able to take work time to be tested for certain diseases after exposure because of their union contract. NEU members at Plymouth Housing negotiated for additional funds for infectious disease testing or treatment not covered by insurance after being exposed at work.

Encourage collaborative and transparent workplaces

We want our organizations to run well so they can thrive. NEU members negotiated for policies and tools that allow them to identify problems and collaborate with managers on solutions. For example, the employees at the Plymouth Housing negotiated to observe four of the organization’s board meetings per year, which provides them with better knowledge of Plymouth Housing’s successes and challenges. Additionally, all NEU members have negotiated for Labor Management Committees (LMC). LMCs are committees made up of equal numbers of managers and union members that meet regularly to discuss and address workplace issues. Solid Ground’s LMC has goals of improving communications and working conditions, and promoting the exchange of ideas. Plymouth Housing’s LMC meets every other month to foster communications and resolve problems.

Raise wages to allow employees to live in the communities they serve

We like many nonprofit employees chose to work for nonprofits because we care deeply about the mission of our organizations. While we didn’t go into nonprofit work for the money, it is important we earn a livable wage. By joining together in union, we’ve been able to use our collective voice to ensure our wages keep up with the rising cost of living in the communities we live and serve. For example, employees at Plymouth Housing have a new contract that raised wages by between 10 percent and 24 percent depending on the position. With the contract, employees will also receive two percent wage increases during each year of the contract and move up a progressive wage scale. At Solid Ground, employees receive raises twice a year.

Joining together in union has made it possible for thousands of passionate, dedicated nonprofit workers like us to thrive in our careers and continue to make a difference in our communities. If you are a nonprofit employee interested in making your workplace better, contact us. NEU is here to help and support your efforts to strengthen your workplace.