May 31, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Neil Bhaerman, 412-266-4899, firstname.lastname@example.org
Frontline Client-Facing Workers at Equitas Health Take Steps to Form Union
COLUMBUS — Today, frontline client-facing employees at Equitas Health, called on their management to voluntarily recognize their union after they presented signed union cards from a supermajority of staff who work in related job categories. The proposed bargaining unit covers approximately 150 social workers, counselors, therapists, advocates, case managers, and other employees who work in Equitas Health offices across Ohio.
"We need a strong voice to keep reminding leadership of our mission and values,” said Ria D. Megnin, a mental health therapist at Equitas Health Dayton Medical Center. “Frontline workers know what's happening with our clients and what program changes are needed so we can all thrive. We know what it's like to lose our best coworkers to agencies offering competitive living wages and benefits, better facilities and training, and more support for advancement. Equitas Health needs a union to help us keep the compassionate, highly skilled, engaged staff we need in order to understand our communities and meet our agency's goals."
The signed union cards, indicating that employees are forming a union affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers, were filed today with the Cincinnati regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If Equitas’s management and Board of Directors choose not to voluntarily recognize the clear decision made by their employees, a secret ballot union election will be scheduled by the NLRB.
“The frontline workers at Equitas Health are committed advocates for their clients and for the communities that they serve,” said Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. “They’re forming their union – and uniting with AFT’s 1.7 million members nationwide – because protections at work and a collective voice are powerful tools that can be employed to advocate for what their organization and clients need.”
"We deserve wages that reflect the rate of inflation and the cost of living, and better benefits and job security,” said Justice Harley, a prevention specialist at Equitas Health Clintonville. “With a union, we can negotiate guaranteed improvements on these issues so we can reduce turnover and build strong, trusted relationships with our clients."
“Unions are an important and an essential tool for ensuring that LGBTQIA+ workers – and all workers, no matter where they come from or what they look like – are treated fairly and can go to work in a place free of harassment and exclusion,” said Brian Van Pelt, a union member in Toledo, and the President of Pride at Work’s Ohio chapter. Pride at Work is the AFL-CIO’s affiliate group for LGBTQIA+ union members and allies. “That’s why this organizing campaign lines up with the values of an organization like Equitas Health, a leader in providing equitable health access for Ohioans. We urge Equitas to respect the decision their employees made and work with them to recognize the union and negotiate a fair contract. A union contract is the only way to properly ensure that protections are in place to guarantee that all employees are able to work in a place free of harassment, discrimination, and intimidation.”
This is the fifth group of workers to petition to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers in the last 12 months: employees at Worthington Libraries filed for union recognition in June 2021 and won an election administered by Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board (SERB); charter school teachers and staff at Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland and Summit Academy Secondary Lorain filed for union recognition in November 2021 and won their subsequent NLRB elections; and earlier this month, educators at the Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities filed with SERB for union recognition and are currently waiting for an election to be scheduled.
"As frontline workers, we give the highest level of care to our clients. But now is the time for the agency to care for us,” said Breann Smith, a health advocate at Equitas Health Newark. “I have worked at Equitas Health for 5 years and I have seen many changes happen during that time. The changes are typically made without our input. We're organizing to be included in those decisions. We have some of the best folks working for us. I'm proud to stand in solidarity with and for them."
The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is composed of 54 local unions representing 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals. OFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.