The economic value of being in a union is significant. Unions fight for fair compensation, healthcare benefits, and traditional pensions. Beyond these important financial considerations, unions represent and champion dignity in the workplace. Jon explains, “At its core, a union is a group of workers who are seeking and finding greater dignity—economic dignity as well as all sorts of dignity—in this major way in which we spend our lives, which is working.” Unfortunately, many child life specialists are unaware of how union membership can enhance job security, professional dignity, and pay equity.
Jon has read in the ACLP Forum of child life specialists who have to verify if the census is high enough to allow them to report to work, a practice that marginalizes child life as a per diem job. If child life specialists are not given the dignity and compensation they deserve, they cannot pay back student loans, pay their rent, or support their families.
COVID-19 has highlighted the security and stability unions can provide. Unlike the experience of some child life specialists during the pandemic, Jon and his child life colleagues were always considered essential workers, and union membership played a role in this designation. The focus and scope of Jon’s child life practice changed during the pandemic; he switched to the inpatient unit during the height of pandemic and saw patients one-on-one because the play room was closed, but he never stopped working and he received hazard pay, thanks to 1199 advocacy efforts. Jon’s manager also advocated for child life, and her support combined with the clout of the union helped ensure Jon and his colleagues were never furloughed, marginalized, or reassigned.
1. Jones, Janelle, John Schmitt, and Nicole Woo. “Women, Working Families, and Unions.” Center for Economic and Policy Research. Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2014. https://cepr.net/documents/women-union-2014-06.pdf.