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Portland Women's Crisis Line Announces Intent to Unionize

PWCL Announces Intent to Unionize
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.
Way to go! 30.Sep.2003 09:15

Cory W.

Way to go guys! Thank you so much for the work you've done in this community. I know how stressful your work can be at times, please know that you are definately appreciated. Best of luck in this endeavor, I hope you get what you're looking for!

don't 30.Sep.2003 12:34

get it

the work you do is needed
i don't get it
a union in a non-profit?
somehow the two don't seem to fit hand-in-hand
what does this say about the board of directors of this non-profit
that they are treating their employees like scum bags?
while receiving public funds and donations
why not form a collective or your own non-profit and open
a new crisis center - bet you could

Non-profit work not so ideal... 30.Sep.2003 13:33


While I'm sure that many readers (any myself included) will agree that non-profit work is an incredible experience-- rewarding, meaningful, intense, educational, etc, we have to also admit that it's not exactly well-paid or well-compensated. In many cases, non-profits that started out with a few zealous volunteers expect newer employees to carry on that sense of sacrifice-- long hours, low wages, few benefits, no pension, etc, etc-- sacrifices that many people, even if they are highly dedicated and motivated, are either unable or unwilling to make. While non-profits do sometimes offer increased flexibility in terms of hours, days off, etc, this also generally means working late and on weekends, which is a major committment that should be recognized. I realize that funding can be scarce and the work that needs to be done is ever increasing, but if non-profits want to hold onto good employees and be successful, they too need to be open to unionization and provide benefits and salaries that allow employees a secure lifestyle.

the very nature 30.Sep.2003 18:05

of a non-profit

is --
long hours, low wages, few benefits, no pension, etc, etc--

you go on to say --
sacrifices that many people, even if they are highly dedicated and motivated, are either unable or unwilling to make

if they are unable or unwilling to make, there is always the corporate world or for-profit world

no one--
is stopping them from entering that realm

still say--
non-profits and unions don't really mix well

You certainly 30.Sep.2003 20:11

Don't get It, Don't get it

Why SHOULD non-profit workers be taken advantage of? Why is such socialy important work such a low priority for wages, etc?

Why do you accept this as "the way it is"? Perhaps, because YOU have a stake in keeping it that way?

to clarify 01.Oct.2003 10:45

A PWCL Staffer

I think a bit of clarification is needed. Our board does not treat us like scum. In fact, we have reached a place in our agencies history where we feel it is safe for us to orgainize with the support of our leadership. It is pretty common for a board of directors to change on a regular basis, which leaves staff in a bad spot at times. We are taking advantage of our not beingin that position to protect ourselves in the event that our leadership goes awry.
In Portland as a whole, social services have begun to unionize. Janus Youth Services has been in the process of organizing for the past three years. Simply because non-profits have traditionally been un-unionized doesn't mean that the need isn't there. These workers put in a lot of hours and work in incredibly stressful positions. Many of these people are in school or tired of working in the for-profit sector. We need access to healthcare, decent wages, etc just as much as the workers in other professions. Yes, we have CHOSEN to work in a non-profit agency. We did not choose to have little or no access to the things other people take for granted. All workers deserve a fair deal, not just those who work for corporations.

YEY 4 U 03.Oct.2003 01:08


Good for you ladies, thats AWESOME. To all of you who "don't get it", sometimes a union means workers have a say when there was none before. Even if things aren't awful now, the union will be there to make sure it doesn't get that way. I think its great because it means that the women's crisis line is here for real, the employees are active and involved, and thats what keeps businesses, non profit or not, afloat.

good job!