The Rosemont Residential Treatment Center and School for Girls exists to give at risk teenage girls ages 12 – 17 with alcohol and drug addictions or mental, emotional, or behavioral problems one last chance to get therapeutic care before they move into in the adult prison system.
In 2007, direct care workers at Rosemont realized they were unable to provide the kind of therapeutic care these vulnerable girls needed due to:
• Low staffing which made conditions unsafe for clients and staff.
• Low wages and no incentives for experienced staff to stay.
• High turnover of direct care staff (most stayed less then one year).
Realizing that they needed a united voice to improve their workplace Rosemont’s front-line workers organized a strong union with SEIU Local 503. With support from Local 503’s other human service workers, from elected officials and community leaders they negotiated a contract that made real progress on these core issues.
Some of the key victories Rosemont workers won in their union contract:
• Staffing levels that do not compromise the therapeutic care of clients;
• Improved trainings so staff can deliver consistent, quality care;
• Incentive raises so experienced staff can better afford to stay; and
• Advocacy agreement that unites management and workers in the effort to win more funding for the services they provide.
“The best part of this contract is that it will give us the ability to consistently give the girls what they need,” said Rosemont worker Charley Ashton. “Higher staffing ratios will be enforced, so staff won’t have to worry about work when we’re not at work. We’re a huge step towards a living wage, and we are still united after over a year of working towards this contract! By staying together as a unified team, we have improved the living situation of these girls.”
Workers at CODA are members of SEIU Local 503. Their union contract helps provide a unified voice to advocate for clients and unite with like-minded community allies to protect funding for treatment services.
Rebecca Woodward’s story
“Six years ago I was a homeless drug addict. I used daily. I used to live and lived to use. I saw no hope of doing anything different. When I realized a change was needed I used the payphone to call my dad. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to go to treatment.
“When I got my intake assessment at CODA (Comprehensive Options for Drug and Alcohol) they asked me if I was DHS involved. I was not sure so I called the lawyer who had been working with me to find out and discovered that my termination of parental rights hearing was the very next day. I thank the CODA worker who asked me this question because it gave me the chance to reunite my family. I went to court the next day sober and asked the judge for drug treatment.
“Three weeks later I started residential treatment at CODA and started getting visits from my children. I took every class CODA offered and graduated from the program and got my kids back. If I had not gotten treatment this would not have been possible.
“After two years clean and sober I got a job at CODA helping clients the same way I got help to get my life back on track. I now teach classes about the child welfare system to help other parents get their kids back. If these services are cut more people will be homeless, families will not be reunited, people will die and good people won’t get the second chances they need like I got.”