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Unions and Work

Social Work Labor

Social workers concerned about their working conditions and how new managerial approaches to output-driven measures of performance are limiting their autonomy and discretion are focused on issues of their labor. Likewise, inequities in pay, promotions, opportunities for professional growth, and the hiring of more and more contract employees are other examples of growing labor problems across all social work agencies. The low income and diminished status of social workers are concerns reflective of degrading the labor that we do. As such, these labor issues can only be addressed through collective advocacy and/or unionization efforts. For example, such efforts can begin with the demand that burnout cannot be addressed thorough self-care alone but requires collective action directed at improving the agency conditions under which social workers labor.

Social Work Unions

Our abysmal working conditions directly impact our retention rate and the quality of services we provide. Historically unions have been the best vehicle for improving working conditions and therefore we encourage social workers to form unions at their workplaces. Social workers are at the crossroads of wage oppression in that we are a caring field that is dominated by women. While Nurses and Teachers have successfully embraced unionization as a way to push back against these oppressive forces, Social Workers have remained on the sidelines. It's time for Social Workers to join the labor movement and we are here to help.

Labor Organizations 


Social Service Workers United Michigan

Social Service Workers United-Michigan is an Industrial Organizing Committee of the Ypsilanti branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W., a multi industrial organization “known for its high standards of democracy, transparency, multinationalism, and active use of the right to strike”) comprised of mental health professionals, substance abuse counselors, social workers, child welfare workers, students, and more from across the Washtenaw metro area aiming to organize our colleagues.

Read here for more information. 


Social Worker Equity Campaign

The Social Worker Equity Campaign is a concerned group of social workers who started a nation-wide campaign to address issues which threaten the very status of social workers, including but not limited to: deplorable salaries, ballooning workloads, demands for unpaid overtime, and racial and gender inequality. We can no longer espouse calls for racial equity, social justice, dignity, and self-determination for our clients and communities and not demand the same for those who toil as professional social workers!

Link to our webpage here.


Payment 4 Placements

Payment for Placements was started at the University of Michigan but now has chapters nationally. It is a student lead advocacy organization pursuing fair payment for students with required fieldwork experiences. We believe all labor is deserving of just compensation and work toward making this a reality through organized action.


Your Organization Name Here

If you are a part of a social service worker union or a group that centers social worker labor rights please fill out our contact sheet to be added to our resource list! 

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