Staff at Every Texan recently celebrated the signing of our first union contract in the organization’s 36-year history. This marks an important step forward for the organization and our ability to fulfill our mission. The staff-driven provisions of the contract represent the results of introducing greater democracy in the workplace.
As a matter of living our values, the staff union of Every Texan in partnership with nonunion managerial staff spent the last year and a half deliberating on the best way to meet the needs of employees and build an environment where staff are better prepared to move the organization and our goals forward.
Our internal move forward for worker power will inspire other organizations — be it nonprofit, for profit, or government sectors — to consider the importance of giving staff a voice through unionization. Below are just a few of the important elements of our new contract which directly relate to the policies Every Texan has advocated for at the state Capitol for decades.
- Compensation — We know the best way to increase the quality of life is through higher wages. This is a value Every Texan has held through many years of advocating for raising the minimum wage. Our union contract raises the bar for staff by setting a salary floor of $55,000. This includes an annually guaranteed Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to prevent erosion of wages from inflation.
- Benefits — In addition to wages, benefits such as health care coverage, retirement contributions, and paid leave (including vacation, sick, parental, medical, holiday, and leave for volunteering and voting) ensure employees can care for themselves as well as their families. These benefits are once again a reflection of the public policy values we have advocated for at the Texas Capitol for decades. Policies like access to affordable healthcare, paid sick and family leave, and a public retirement savings program are all policies we know can create economic opportunity for Texans and build a stronger Texas.
- Student Loan Repayment Assistance — as a public policy, Every Texan supports a system of higher education that does not severely burden students with debt. We know this debt can be so great that it prevents economic opportunity, including home ownership or retirement savings. Our union contract puts that value to play through monthly loan repayment assistance for employees with outstanding student loans.
In addition to the values above, which are directly related to our organization’s policy goals, Every Texan’s union contract puts in place important policies to promote workplace democracy. These include a labor management committee to provide space for open communication between staff and management and promote greater accountability through opportunities for staff to present directly to board members. Our contract increases discrimination protections, provides professional development opportunities, and allows for staff to have flexible work hours and location.
As we’ve discussed before, as levels of unionization have fallen over the years, income inequality has risen. Every Texan is a small fish in a large ocean of employers, but we hope to be an example to others that fear the unknown of unionization to see just how strong it can make an organization.