Monday, August 10, 2015

How Social Workers Unionized at Portland's Janus Youth Project

Labor Notes
August 10th, 2015

What happens when social workers grow tired of poor working conditions and poverty wages? At my workplace, the nonprofit Janus Youth Programs, we formed a union. Now the 50 of us have a voice to improve our working conditions and our clients’ living conditions.
My co-workers and I care for children in publicly funded—but privately operated—residential and re-entry treatment centers. Our job titles include case managers, direct care staff, and relief staff. Together we work with adolescents and families who have experienced sexual abuse, trauma, and often poverty.
Direct care and relief staff spend the majority of our shifts making sure our clients’ basic needs are met. We prepare meals, get clients to and from school and appointments, pass medication, and are, for many clients, the most consistent positive influence in their lives.
But just like in other privatized industries, our working conditions have deteriorated and wages have been stagnant.
We haven’t had significant raises since the 1990s. Many of my co-workers, even those who’ve worked at Janus Youth Programs for close to a decade, are making just over Oregon’s minimum wage. Meanwhile upper management has continued to enjoy its perks.

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