Every Texan recently reached a momentous milestone with the adoption of our first union contract. In February 2020, blissfully ignorant about how our lives were about to change in the looming pandemic, Every Texan (then known as CPPP) management and employees signed an agreement to voluntarily recognize our union, now known as Every Texan United. During the last 18 months, the road to our first contract hasn’t been straightforward or easy, as we navigated challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of our offices and shift to remote work, and the search for a new CEO. We’re excited that we’ve finally made it.
In the last 40 years, union membership has declined significantly, and in Texas less than 5% of all workers are unionized. Despite the trend, there’s new life in the labor movement, and we’re proud to be part of the growing movement toward unionization at progressive nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit and social justice field demands a lot from its employees. Nonprofit workers have long been overworked and settled for subpar benefits in the name of just causes. These challenges aren’t the fault of any individual leader, but they have evolved to become cultural and endemic in the sector.
At Every Texan, our internal policies have not always been aligned with our stated values, an issue common in other nonprofits that have unionized. We’ve seen ourselves as good employers but, through unionization, we had the opportunity to examine our culture, pay, and benefits through the lens of our values and policy positions, and found places to improve.
Every Texan has advocated for pro-worker policies at the state level for decades, while lawmakers and leaders favor policies benefiting business owners and corporations. Unionization at Every Texan is consistent with our support for policies like paid sick leave and higher minimum wages. Guaranteed benefits and wages at unionized workplaces have a positive knock-on effect for all workers; there’s a correlation between increased union membership and wage growth (and the opposite is true — decreased union membership correlates with sluggish wage growth). As a statewide organization, we can lead by putting our policy ideals into practice.
We’re used to going up against big entrenched institutions to challenge injustice and expand opportunity and equity for every Texan. We know how risky it is for an employee to speak truth to power and disrupt the status quo, especially when that power signs your paycheck. We honor the courage of employees who voted for a union because they had a vision for a better Every Texan, and the courage of our supervisors who engaged in the process in good faith with open minds. We believe in people-centered policy, and a people-first workplace supports this value. The people most impacted by decisions and policies should be the ones informing the solutions.
I joined Every Texan as CEO at the beginning of May as we headed into the final stages of hammering out our first contract 15 months after the union was recognized, so a lot of the heavy lifting was done by others. As a lawyer, I have been on both sides of the bargaining table before, but never as an organizational leader. It has been both empowering and humbling for a new leader to learn about this organization and its staff, while also earning trust and showing accountability. It’s also an enviable position to join Every Texan right when we’re starting a new phase in our growth.
The union has provided us with a framework for success in the way we operate and communicate, and it’s exciting to shift our focus from negotiation to implementation. We’re grateful for this opportunity to model a new nonprofit culture where we honor and recognize the effort and contributions of our talented staff without depending on them to constantly overextend themselves in ways that conflict with our values and vision. We’re one of many organizations that have come to this conclusion, and we’re proud to lead in this way.