The staff union at American Jewish World Service unanimously ratified their first collective bargaining agreement on March 1, 2022. The contract was negotiated over the course of six months by members of the bargaining committee with support from representatives of OPEIU Local 153, and its policies are rooted in an organizational commitment to equity and transparency. Highlights include a $60,000 salary floor; generous parental, medical, and bereavement leave; equitable annual wage increases; and clear processes for promotions, vacancies, and salary changes. 

As an international human rights nonprofit, members of the AJWS Union are deeply committed to the organization’s mission and view unionization as a way to match AJWS’s internal practices with its external values. This view is exemplified in the  contract, which includes, among other progressive policies, a new parental leave policy which offers 20 weeks of paid leave and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees expanding their families under any definition. The bereavement leave policy and medical leave policy are also as inclusive as possible, to ensure that all types of families are eligible.

The new salary floor of $60,000 additionally represents a tremendous gain for AJWS staff, particularly the lowest paid employees living in expensive cities like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. A clear procedure for determining annual wage increases each year, a policy for coverage pay compensation, and processes for both promotions and salary increases will contribute to transparency and equity for years to come. “After months of collective bargaining, we are thrilled to see a final contract that creates a new standard for what it means to be a progressive nonprofit that practices its values,” said Hannah Fajer, AJWS policy associate and member of the union bargaining committee. “Living wages, generous paid leave, and organizational transparency are essential for all workers, and we in the AJWS Union hope to see other organizations follow suit.”

While the contract contains many exciting wins not limited to those mentioned above, it most importantly gives staff a seat at the decision-making table. This has been and will continue to be crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the lines between work and personal life have become increasingly blurry. A labor management committee will continue to address issues moving forward, including bargaining over remote work options and office return policies. Audrey Silverman, AJWS development associate and member of the union bargaining committee said, “At AJWS, our staff are tremendously dedicated to the organization’s mission and are integral to its success. This contract marks the beginning of ongoing collaboration between staff and management, and we are excited to continue supporting democracy – both in the countries where we work and in our own workplace. ”Employees interested in forming a union at their nonprofit organization can contact Nonprofit Employees United to learn more.