INTRODUCTION: Justice at Work Pennsylvania (JAW) is a legal services nonprofit that supports low-wage workers as they pursue economic and social justice. As an organization committed to supporting workers, JAW must always think critically about the role it wants to play in the fight for workers’ rights. We, JAW staff members, have chosen this work because of our personal commitments to social justice, racial equity, and worker power. We believe that all workers deserve a say in their work; we fight for our clients to have that say, and we believe we should have a say in our own work too. We see workplace democracy for our clients and workplace democracy for ourselves as deeply intertwined, and we are unionizing to ensure that our internal policies, procedures, and personnel practices reflect that connection.
MISSION: The mission of the Justice at Work Staff Union (JAWSU) is to build shared understanding, solidarity, and collective power among all JAW employees. By exercising our right to collectively bargain for a contract, JAWSU seeks to improve and equalize working conditions across our organization to the benefit of employees, management, and clients alike.
VISION: We envision a workplace where:
All staff members are guaranteed equitable treatment and economic rights under a contract, including fair compensation, universal accessibility accommodations, and protected procedures for grievance resolution;
Staff and management are held equally accountable to the collectively bargained standards outlined in the contract;
Staff can continue to collectively bargain for improvements in our working conditions without fear of retaliation; and
Staff and management work together to make our dream of a racially just, trauma-informed, economically equitable, collaborative, and democratic workplace a reality.
Our vision is guided by a set of key principles:
We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We believe that building accountability and solidarity through a contract is a key step towards dismantling white supremacy and anti-Black racism in our workplace. We believe that unionizing will increase racial equity in compensation, hiring and firing, benefits, and overall work experience to a degree that is not possible through external training or relying on individual members of staff to resolve these issues on their own without the collective power of a union.
We believe in a workplace free of xenophobia and discrimination against immigrants, regardless of documentation. JAW cannot credibly champion diversity and inclusivity, nor can it ethically profit from the contributions of its immigrant community, while being ambivalent to the needs of its immigrant employees.
We recognize that mission-driven organizations, including JAW, replicate hierarchies of oppression and exacerbate systemic inequality. We believe that change must be led by members of the communities we serve, and we acknowledge that a long history of white supremacy, anti-Black racism and anti-POC racism have kept members of those communities from pathways to power. Members of our staff with lived experiences of systemic oppression, racial inequity, or poverty often have to take lower-paying positions in organizations like JAW, in an effort to give back to their communities. This is often unsustainable and contributes to the racial wealth gap. We believe an equitable workplace requires affirmatively combating these forms of structural racism.
We believe that the best workplace is a workplace that is affirming of difference and representative of the communities it serves.
We affirm the dignity of all workers and the fundamental right to just working conditions and wages, as well as a workplace free from discrimination. We believe workers coming together to improve their working conditions, including through collective bargaining as a union, is also a fundamental right.
We believe each worker at JAW plays an integral role in the services we offer, thus we believe all workers - administrative staff, paralegals, and attorneys - must be equally valued, regardless of their title. We believe in the power of a democratic workplace; staff at all levels must be empowered to participate in high-level processes, including performance reviews, promotions, and salary negotiations.
We believe in a transparent workplace, where management’s decisions - and the reasoning behind those decisions - are proactively reported and clear to all staff.
We believe that all workers have the right to fair accessibility accommodations in the case of physical or mental illness or disability, regardless of their job duties. Accommodations should be equitable across the organization, not left to supervisory discretion. Workers should be respected when they request time for their health and wellbeing; they should not be required to disclose more information than is necessary, even when the health issues they raise are not physically visible.
We believe in a gender-equitable workplace, including a workplace where there are no disparities in compensation or benefits between men, women, and non-binary people, nor between cisgender and transgender people.
We believe that staff at JAW should be supported in creating and sustaining the families we desire. JAW must recognize that staff may have different family arrangements and structures; JAW must acknowledge these families as valid and deserving of equal support. Such support includes the provision of robust paid parental leave for birth and non-birth parents and accommodations that allow for family care. We must unlearn racist and classist biases that engender a rigid understanding of what family can be.
We believe in a workplace free of all forms of harassment, intimidation, violence, and abuse. Staff who experience harassment of any kind should have a clear, formal path for grievance resolution, as guaranteed in a contract.
We believe that a unionized workplace is a stable workplace. When workers have financial support, protection from burnout and emotional exhaustion, and control over their own work, turnover (with all its attendant costs in money, time, and morale) will decrease.
We believe that unionizing is an act of love — for this organization, for its mission, and for each other.