1199 Social Workers Lobby NYC for Pay Equity

March 6, 2023

New York City contracts with nonprofits to provide billions of dollars’ worth of critical social services to New Yorkers in need. But according to a recent study by the New School, roughly two-thirds of all full-time human services workers had earnings in 2019 which fell below the city’s near-poverty threshold.

That is why 1199ers testified at a City Council hearing on January 30 in support of legislation, known as intro 510, which would establish citywide prevailing wage for human service providers. Such legislation would result in improved wages for Union members working as social workers at NYC nonprofits and also improve recruitment and retention in this crucial sector.

William Perez has been an 1199 behavioral health Social Worker at Callen Lorde for one year. “For 17 years [before that], I literally bounced from one agency to another and back, just seeking higher pay,” he told the NYC councilors, “With two kids to support and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, I could only afford a tiny studio apartment. Three daily meals were unaffordable and at times, I went without food for myself so I could feed my kids. Getting to where I am today has been a struggle and it is for that reason that I come before you today.”

“Many people use community health clinics as steppingstones to gain the necessary experience and move to jobs with higher salaries,” said Maria Oritz, an 1199 Certified Social Worker who works in East Harlem, “It does not have to be this way. I can easily earn over $10,000 more elsewhere, but serving my community is my objective and I plan to do that for as long as I can, which will depend on increasing expenses. The clinics have a difficult time recruiting and retaining long-term workers. Establishing prevailing wages for them will go a long way toward ensuring long term worker retention.”

1199 Magazine: Jan-Feb 2023