Journey Mental Health is a private sector alcohol and mental health services center, which operates at nine sites in the Madison area. Nearly 300 workers are divided into two bargaining units, which include doctors, nurses, social workers, IT staff, administrative and maintenance workers and mental health aides and technicians.
The main issues in the organizing drive were “dignity and a voice on the job without fear of retaliation,” according to Mary Burpee, staff representative with AFSCME Council 40.
“They felt they were not taken seriously when it came to addressing work concerns,” she said. “For the paraprofessionals, it was sometimes about wages, benefits and job security too.”
JMHC employees had been meeting with AFSCME organizers since February and initially tried to get the employer to voluntarily recognize the union. When the company denied their request, they filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in June.
The company responded by holding two captive-audience meetings, to try to convince people that forming a union was not in their best interest.
But the union was already well organized. Committees were set up in every worksite and AFSCME put on a “Union 101” training session for employees that covered topics like labor history, union advantage data, labor laws, how to do research on your employer and how to prepare for bargaining a contract.
The organizing commitee had one-on-one discussions with coworkers and teamed up with veteran AFSCME organizers and made weekend house calls to talk about the benefits of unionization.
Voting took place by mail over a two week period and the ballots were counted at the NLRB office in Milwaukee on August 14.
JMHC workers will now get down to the tasks of developing the new union structure and preparing to negotiate their first contract.