The employees at Brave Space Alliance (BSA)which describes itself as "the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago"have formed a union and are seeking official recognition.
In a letter Windy City Times received March 25, the Brave Space Alliance Workers Union said, "With full support of all workers, staff at BSA have formed a union in pursuit of better working conditions, labor equity, and a more sustainable organization that is a reflection of BSA's stated values and mission. In the formation of a union, we are working toward immediate increased transparency, equity and well-being of staff."
The letter continued, "This past year Brave Space Alliance has celebrated its five-year anniversary, hiring new staff who are Black, Brown, trans, queer, disabled, people living with HIV and/or impacted by the carceral system. We have expanded to provide COVID relief, housing, clothing, food delivery and support services to our South Side and West Side Chicago community members. As our commitments grow, so must our collective capacity as dedicated workers at Brave Space Alliance. We believe that the best way to increase our capacity as staff is through a collective contract, which is why we, the staff of Brave Space Alliance, are unionizing.
"We would hope that our CEO, LaSaia Wade, and the BSA Leadership Team will choose to reflect the organizational mission and values for our workers who are Black and Brown abolitionists, activists and workers leading through the establishment of a democratic and safe workplace."
The unionwith Taylor Ngiri Seaberg, Ms Albie, Carla Hamilton, Jacoby Johnson, T Smith, Olivia Lauryn, Katie Zhou and Sudarshana Rao being the letter's signershas asked for voluntary recognition by Friday, April 1, at 5 p.m. ET. If the union is not recognized, the employees said they will enter into a work stoppage, effective immediately, adding, "Our work stoppage only includes members of the bargaining unit, and should not result in stopping pay for any BSA employees not included in the union."
[UPDATE: Later on March 25, Wade emailed a statement to Windy City Times that read, "Earlier this week, the Leadership Team at Brave Space Alliance became aware of a possible unionization effort among our staff, and resolved to support their efforts when we were approached. As of this morning, we were officially notified that our staff had decided to form the Brave Space Alliance Union under the auspices of CWA District 4.
"In an act of demonstration of the value of its workers, LaSaia Wade, Founder, CEO, Brave Space Alliance and the community-based organization's leadership team voluntarily and cooperatively recognized the impending formation of a union, to further establish a democratic and safe workplace. We congratulate our staff on their accomplishment, and look forward to engaging in the collective bargaining process with them."]
This development is not the first this year to involve a local LGBTQ+ organization and unions. In February, Windy City Times reported on the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) filing a motion with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) declaring its intent to form a collective-bargaining unit for non-nursing staff within the Howard Brown Health system.
If approved, the motion could lead to the representation of more than 400 employees throughout the system, which is composed of about a dozen health-center locations and Brown Elephant Resale Stores, according to a statement.
Howard Brown's nursing staff unionized with INA and won their first collective-bargaining agreement in 2019. The medical system, which largely centers services for LGBTQ+ Chicagoans, has expanded aggressively in the last several years, opening numerous facilities throughout various neighborhoods in the city.
Windy City Times has reached out to Wade for comment regarding the formation of the BSA union.