The Persad Staff Union Q&A

The overworked, underpaid staff who have repeatedly resisted the board and consistently shown that have zero faith in their board leadership. They’ve posted open letters to the board. They have demands. They organized a door decorating contest to demonstrate their cohesion. They value and respect their current Executive Director, Carlos Torres, and seem to believe he could steer the organization through this wilderness.

To provide more information about the unionizing efforts at Persad Center, I spoke with Diane Dahm, a clinical therapist who is involved as a union organizer.

How does the process to organize a union work? Unions are organized by the staff, so a lot of it revolves around talking with coworkers. After determining that the majority of people in your workplace want a union, you file authorization cards with the labor board. Then, you prepare for an election. After winning an election, you start preparing to bargain a contract.

Where is the Persad Union in this process and what is your estimated timeframe? We filed our authorization cards a few weeks ago. Right now, we’re preparing for our election. Our election will be on December 5th. After the election, we’ll be making collective decision on our bargaining priorities.

How would a unionized workforce impact day-to-day operations of Persad? That depends what we negotiate in our contract! One thing that I know for sure is that we’ll be able to have even better interactions with our clients and communities that we serve because we’ll have more transparency, more security, and more of a voice in the work that we do.

In a non-profit workplace, does a union have direct negotiation with the Board of Directors? When we are negotiating our contract, we’ll be in direct negotiations with the management team of Persad Center.

Do any of the current board members belong to a union?  Though I’m not positive, I’m not aware of any board members that belong to a union.

How will a unionized workforce impact issues that concern the public like the wait-list for new clients, a diversified workforce, and Persad’s relationships with LGBTQ organizations, donors, sponsors, etc? After we win our election, we will be bargaining over our terms and conditions of employment. Collectively, we will have a stronger voice and greater protections when advocating for the change that we think is best for our organization, our clients, our communities and ourselves. The internal change we’re starting with is something we hope gives us a solid foundation to build better relationships with the community.

Would this give clinical staff an avenue to help craft internal policies like the ‘no show’ attendance policy implemented a few years ago? As I mentioned, we will be bargaining over our terms and conditions of employment after our election. This will impact some of our internal policies. We’ll be talking together as staff to decide our priorities for bargaining and how we can advocate for ourselves and our clients at the bargaining table.

Please give some examples of how a unionized workforce will impact the community side programming – youth services, foster care, SAGE, etc? With greater transparency and a greater voice, our folks on the community programming side of Persad can better advocate for the communities that we work with. With greater internal support, our folks working on the community side can better support our community.

Which positions and jobs would be part of the union and which would not? More specifically, what does “management” look like in terms of jobs the public is famliiar with? Our therapists, front desk staff, administrative staff, and community team are all eligible to be in a union. This includes full time and part time staff. The management team at Persad is not eligible to be in the union – this includes the executive director and other directors and supervisors.

Nationwide, do other LGBTQ organizations have unions? Many LGBTQ+ workers are represented by unions, and many organizations that do work with LGBTQ+ communities are unionized. Right now, employees at Housing Works (a nonprofit focused on working with people in New York with HIV and AIDS that are experieincing homelessness) are trying to unionize.

Do other mental health agencies nationwide have unions? Yes! There are a lot of mental health care workers with unions. If you’re interested, I can send you some examples.

Does the Persad Union include part-time staff?  Yes! Our union will include full time and part time staff.

How can members of the community demonstrate support for this work? Where can I get my button or sticker? Can we make some ourselves?  Sign a petition of support? Sure, we can get you a button! It’s been great to get support from folks on social media, that’s been amazing. We really appreciate it! You’re welcome to make any buttons that you’d like. We don’t have a petition going around right now.

The National Center for Transgender Equality staff recently were unsuccessful in establishing a union and did not receive support from management or their board to do so. More recently, the staff size was reduced from 23 to 7, a decision former employees attribute to the lack of commitment to social justice principles by the board and management as well as a response to a vote of no confidence by a majority of the employees. It is sobering to realize that if your vote is not successful, the Board of Persad could take similar actions that might threaten the organization’s capacity to provide services. How do you reassure members of the community watching the dynamics at NCTE with trepidation. It makes me more committed than ever to making sure that we win our election. I’m confident that we will win our election – the vast majority of Persad staff are excited to vote yes for our union.

What specific choices does management and the board have – can they demonstrate support for the union efforts in any legal or concrete way?  During this phase of the process, we’d like Persad leadership to remain neutral so that we can have a fair election. Afterwards, they can support us by bargaining with us in good faith.

Where can readers find more information? Check out our facebook page! This is our main source of information and connection to the public at this time.

Thank you, Diane.

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