Our Delegates: Stacey Jackson, Lead TherapistFebruary 27, 2018
Lead Therapist Stacey Jackson was instrumental in organizing Baltimore’s premier LGBTQ health provider.
Like many of her colleagues at Maryland’s Chase Brexton Health Care, 1199SEIU delegate Stacey Jackson is deeply committed to providing quality services to LGBTQ community and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Her dedication is professional and intensely personal.
After undertaking a role as one of the leading activists in the August 2016 organizing drive at the Baltimore-based health system, where employees voted overwhelmingly for the Union, Jackson became a contract negotiating committee member and then a delegate.
Jackson is a relative newcomer in the behavioral health field, having completed her Masters of Social Work at the prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts in 2013. Before that she was a healthcare policy advisor to the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. Afterwards, Jackson worked as a Program Administrator for Health Policy Research and Advocacy at American University Law School, also in DC. It was at law school she began her transition from male to female.
“There have been challenges to negotiating my career as a trans person,” says Jackson. “While the law school was one of the first in the country to provide trans-inclusive healthcare benefits that pay for transition medicine and care, I faced other forms of discrimination.
“When I applied for the promotion to Assistant Director of Special Events, a more public role that involved interacting with big donors, I was the unanimous choice of the hiring committee. But then, after I handed in my resignation from my old role, I got an email rescinding the job offer. A year earlier, when I started living as my authentic self, I was moved to a less public-facing role. I’d hit a glass ceiling.”
Jackson decided it was time to change her career path. After completing her MSW, she began her career as a Therapist at Chase Brexton in October of 2013, and in February 2016 was promoted to Lead Therapist for LGBT Behavioral Health. But shortly before she joined the team, Jackson says the health center, which was founded in 1978 to serve gay men, was facing some “pretty dramatic shifts in management style.”
Chase Brexton is one of several Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) whose staffs have recently come together to form a union with 1199SEIU. Like Whitman Walker in Washington, D.C. and Callen Lorde in New York City, these facilities proudly serve the LGBT community and other underserved client populations. Chase Brexton’s organizing odyssey began when a new CEO took over, seeking to increase the institution’s revenue by bringing expensive management consultants, who recommended a series of unpopular changes to the working environment.
“They were proposing to change the compensation structure from salary to incentive-based,” explains Jackson. “This meant that many of the providers were facing salary cuts of $30,000 on average unless they agreed to dramatically increase their patient throughput.”
“Chase Brexton’s headquarters, where I work, is in the Mount Vernon section of Baltimore, which is an area surrounded by deep poverty and segregation. Some of our clients need to take three buses just to reach us.
“The incentive-based system threatened to turn clients into numbers. It encouraged us to ‘turn over’ patients and rush them out the door rather than provide the quality care they deserve.”
Sometimes she faced pressure to add more group therapy sessions because they generate more revenue than individual sessions. “But not all clients benefit from this approach. Some need individual attention,” explains Jackson.
Management fought back aggressively against the union campaign, trying to divide the worker activists by “pouring vitriol,” says Jackson. But the activists kept close contact and built solidarity with digital communications.
Local LGBT activists and community leaders also enthusiastically supported the union campaign. In the end the new CEO resigned, and the Chase Brexton activists voted by 87-9 for 1199SEIU representation.
“Our union campaign was very values-based,” explains Jackson. “We weren’t necessarily looking for major wage increases. We were more concerned with limiting the amount of patient throughput, so that we could continue to provide quality care to the underserved communities who depend on us.”