More than 470 employees at Chicago-based Howard Brown Health clinics, Broadway Youth Center and Brown Elephant retail locations announced Aug. 10 that they have won their union election, with 97% of the votes cast.
This is one of the largest healthcare unions formed in Chicago in the last decade.
In February, Howard Brown Health workers announced their intent to unionize with the Illinois Nurses Association. On June 6, workers filed a petition for recognition with two-thirds of their co-workers showing support for unionization.
"Workers at Howard Brown have spent many years expressing frustration with increasingly unrealistic workloads and low pay. These conditions have resulted in staff burnout and a declining quality of patient care, especially LGBTQ+ culturally humble care" Lindsey Martin, an eight-year employee of Howard Brown Health, said in a press release. "For years, we've watched this organization slowly stray from its mission of equity and activism into one focused on money and corporate growth. That ends today. This union finally gives workers a voice so we can use our experience and knowledge to have a say in how our departments are run."
"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Howard Brown has experienced high turnover throughout every level of the organization," the press release stated. "High turnover at the management level has led to a lack of clear vision and a lack of follow-through in addressing employees' concerns about patient care and working conditions. Workers hope that contract negotiations will be an opportunity to work in partnership with upper management to return Howard Brown to a point of stability and high-quality care."
In response, Howard Brown Health President and CEO David Ernesto Munar said in a statement, "I'd like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the organizers, everyone who voted, and all staff who push Howard Brown to be the best it can possibly be. As we take the next steps in the process, we will move forward together in support of our patients and clients, seeking at all times to improve the workplace experience for our valued employees."
Munar added, "Howard Brown is committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a mutually agreeable contract with the workforce. With patient and client care at the center of the bargaining process, Howard Brown aims to reach a contract in the most efficient way possible to ensure our staff's needs are met while maximizing value for Chicago's LGBTQ+ community."
The statement also said, "The Board and management of Howard Brown Health took a neutral position on the question of unionization, creating space for employees to self-determine whether the proposed bargaining unit was in their best interest. Howard Brown's leadership is proud to have protected the rights of organizers and created space for workers to explore their options without interference."