Portland Women's Crisis Line is a non-profit agency dedicated to providing advocacy and resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Established in 1973, PWCL works 24 hours a day to stop violence against women, children and anyone affected by interpersonal violence. "We go to the hospital when a woman is raped, and provide support whether she reports to the police or not. We are often the only voice of support to people who have been beaten, berated and isolated." said Stacie W., an employee of PWCL.
With all the time and effort the advocates at Portland Women?s Crisis Line dedicate to improving the lives of others in the community, it only makes sense that they begin to advocate for themselves. In order to start that process, the workers publicly announced last week that they joined the Industrial Workers of the World, local union 650. Through unionizing, staff hopes to gain simple rights such as an open grievance policy, regular break periods, compensation for on-call time, and an agency wide benefit package. "So many of us take for granted the vacations with pay, pensions, grievance procedures and holidays that never existed on any meaningful scale until unions fought and won them for the working people." said JR Wolfe, Vice President of United Transportation Union local 1574 in support.
Too often, Women's work in general is undervalued, and little effort is made to guarantee that workers receive livable wages. Crisis work is often stressful, traumatic and in some cases physically dangerous. "As advocates in the anti-oppression movement, we believe that our work should be valued as highly as any other field. We should be granted the same rights to living wages, health care benefits and time compensation for the hours we spend in hospitals, courthouses or educating our communities." said Jodi R., a staff member at PWCL.
Currently, staff is continuing a dialogue with PWCL board of directors. The staff is asking to be voluntarily recognized by the board in doing so the initial contract may be a strong representation of the values board and staff currently share. Community support is strong. Supporters of the unionizing effort at Portland Women's Crisis Line can show support by contacting the board of directors. Send letters of support to PO Box 42610, Portland OR 97242. Letters from community members, survivors, and non-profit agencies are welcome. Support may also be shown by attending a benefit for PWCL on Saturday, October 11th at the Hawthorne Eagles Lodge. The event will begin at 9pm.
Portland IWW has been organizing social services in Portland for the last four years because of the importance of these agencies to our community. "IWW Local 650 organizers are dedicated to helping workers unionize in all Portland social service agencies, to ensure quality care for our community and healthy workplaces for the workers who dedicate themselves to these services." said Anne E. of the IWW Local 650.