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Equitas Health Workers Win First Union Contract

For Immediate Release
March 29, 2024
Contact: Neil Bhaerman, 412-266-4899,

Equitas Health Workers Win First Union Contract

COLUMBUS — Equitas Health Workers United (EHWU), a union representing more than 200 frontline client-facing employees at fifteen Equitas Health locations across Ohio, ratified their first collective bargaining agreement today with a 96.3% majority. The union contract includes a wage increase, a signing bonus, a binding grievance and arbitration process, a labor-management committee with direct participation from the Board of Trustees, and more. Equitas Health is one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS-serving healthcare organizations.

“We started organizing our union three years ago because we are committed to providing our clients with the best care possible, and we couldn’t do that while management was making poor decisions without input from staff who work directly with clients,” said Breann Smith, a Medical Case Manager at the Newark office and a member of the EHWU bargaining team. “That’s why we prioritized contract language that gives us different ways to have an impact on the decisions that affect our work and our clients’ care.”

The contract guarantees that workers will have a voice in regularly held labor-management meetings, which is a collaborative problem-solving committee with equal representation from workers and management. The contract also mandates that a Board of Trustees member must participate in these meetings semi-annually, ensuring that the Board is fully aware of important workplace issues. Additionally, by providing “just cause” protection and a binding grievance and arbitration process, workers will be able to speak up without fear of retaliation from management. 

“We need to be able to build and maintain trusted relationships with our clients, and that is difficult when we have high staff turnover,” said Nick Milburn, a Non-Medical Case Manager at the Canton office and a member of the EHWU bargaining team. “This contract provides stability and guaranteed improvements for staff that will help us reduce turnover and strengthen our relationships with our clients."

The contract includes a number of wage and benefit improvements including: a 2% raise retroactive to January 1, 2024 (on top of the recent 3% raise); a $1,000 signing bonus, increased compensation for degree, license or certification advancement, eight hours of paid time off to volunteer in the community, increased bereavement leave, a more inclusive parental leave policy, a cap to the employee share of healthcare premiums, and more. Additional wage increases will be negotiated during the contract, after Equitas Health has finalized their budget. 

“Winning a first union contract is a critical step in building a union,” said OFT President Melissa Cropper. “Throughout this long and difficult process, Equitas workers on the bargaining team stayed rooted in their values by fighting for paid time off to volunteer in their communities, direct communication with their Board so they can advocate for their clients, and strong health and safety rules.”

“We are in awe of the social workers, counselors, therapists, case managers and other frontline employees at Equitas Health who stuck together over months of challenging negotiations to improve the care they provide to their clients and communities,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “They used their collective power to bargain a robust first contract that guarantees them a voice and dignity at work, backed by the strength and support of the 1.75 million members of the AFT. We are so proud of their effort—both at the bargaining table and in the work they do to help their clients each and every day.”

Equitas workers began organizing their union in 2021, filed for a union election in May 2022, and won their election in August 2022. Their union win is part of an organizing boom with the Ohio Federation that includes ten union wins since 2021 (Worthington Libraries, Grandview Heights Public Library, Pickerington Public Library, Columbus College of Art & Design, KIPP Columbus, Summit Academy Lorain, Menlo Park Academy, the School of Bright Promise, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, and Equitas). 

“After more than two years of interim leadership at Equitas Health, we finally have a new long-term CEO starting days from now,” said Jeff Dubin, a Senior Therapist at the King-Lincoln office and a member of the EHWU bargaining team. “We’re looking forward to working with him. Leadership transitions can be difficult and we’re glad that through our new union contract, we’ll have a voice in changes that affect the work we do.”  


The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is a state federation of 60 local unions of active and retired public school teachers and staff, charter school teachers and staff, higher education faculty and staff, social workers, library workers, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality public education, intellectual freedom, and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education & public service professionals. OFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. 

Equitas Health Workers United Bargaining Team

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