Portland Women's Crisis Lines Workers Win New Contract!
After a year long campaign, the workers at Portland Women's Crisis Line signed their first contract on the 6th of July. Staff decided in June 2003 to begin talking about becoming a union shop to address what they saw as problems within the agency. After a few months of intense organizing, the women at PWCL held a third party oversight election back in November to gain official recognition of their intent to unionize under the IWW. The vote resulted in a nearly unanimous yes vote, with only one person voting no and one abstention. With the union becoming recognized, staff elected a four person bargaining committee and work on the contract began.
Among the most important issues to be addressed were the lack of a clear discipline and grievance procedure, increasing staff voice to stand in accordance with the agencies grassroots democratic foundations, and a reduction in the amount of hours each person must work to be considered full time. Through the contract, workers at PWCL were able to gain these things, and much more, by working very collectively with the board of directors and executive director.
Within the eighteen month contract PWCL has secured minimum training requirements for all direct service employees and volunteers, with a clause for members of the board of directors that urges attendance at specific sessions of the basic advocacy training. The contract also has established full time classification at 36 hours per week and up, with all full time workers receiving full benefits. Part time employees receive 50% of benefits at 18 hours per week, and the bargaining team was able to secure a grandfather clause for all existing staff working at least 16 hours a week. The newly established benefits package includes four weeks of paid vacation, eleven paid holidays off, eight hours of health leave accrued per month, funeral leave for the death of any member of self-identified family, health and dental insurance, and twelve weeks of unpaid extended illness/parenting leave.
All staff members have also received raises and on call compensation, and have the ability to reopen the wage portion of the contract should agency funding increase significantly. Seniority rights have also been established, with senior staff having preference over matters such as scheduling, shift preference, vacation scheduling, layoffs and hiring. In the hiring process, staff now is guaranteed a voice in the hiring of all members of management, and staff within the sexual assault program now hold onto the right to assist in the hiring of all new staff within that program. The newly established discipline/grievance procedure has cemented use of just cause termination and Weingarten rights, as well as the implementation of a review panel consisting of the program supervisor, executive director and two employees chosen by the grievant whenever a discipline process is escalated above a written warning.
The workers at Portland Women's Crisis Line are elated with the ratification of this contract and hope that it is the beginning of a truly egalitarian agency where all staff is able to feel like their voice and work are appreciated.