Workers at any job can be exploited at any time. However, the abuse of those who work in non-profit organizations often goes unidentified. Workers may feel selfish or unjustified in coming forward with instances of exploitation because of the nature of non-profits. However, no worker should be forced to make sacrifices that jeopardize their basic living needs or emotional well being. This brief guide will go over:
When to take action
Why it's important
It's easy to think that a non-profit that advocates for human rights, justice and is well steeped in anti-oppression discourse would be pro-union. But there are many factors that get in the way of putting this into practice. Smaller non-profits are notoriously underfunded and short staffed. People frequently work in the non-profit industry because they feel passionately about the cause represented. This makes it easy to throw in a few extra hours of work here or there because the end goal is so compelling. The difference is when this extra work is completed voluntarily and readily versus when it is an expected and regular component of the job that isn't paid.
It can also be a very disheartening experience for workers who enter the job with certain expectations about how worker's rights will be respected given the context. Exploitation can come as a shock to workers, who might think that it would happen at a place like Starbucks but not at a local grassroots non-profit. Though the issue can be divisive at first, when it comes down to it even non-profits are workplaces like any other and labour rights must be enforced.
When to take action
Some large non-profits cut corners with their workers when they face tough economic times or mismanage funds to the point where the pay just isn't fair. Demanding fair pay, an emotionally stable workplace and to have rights to organize respected isn't selfish or personal but rather an extension of the social justice work many non-profits strive for. Being overloaded with work without compensation, not getting paid as much as others doing similar jobs or being generally mistreated at work are all valid reasons to consider organizing. Unions can support workers and give them valuable bargaining tools.
Tituba's Revenge is a group of anti-capitalist workers based in New York City. They released this awesome myth busting fact sheet for non-profit workers who are interested in unionizing.
Why is it important
Organizing for exploited non-profit workers is important on many levels. First of all, every worker is entitled to fair treatment and all of their legal rights in a workplace. Secondly, the issue of non-profit workers unionizing has been silenced through large mainstream non-profits. The majority of the industry's workforce is comprised of people of colour, women and other marginalized identities. This makes it even more vital to give a voice to the struggle of these oppressed populations.
The unions below all have some non-profit workers as members.
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