Why I’m Active in My Union

Jade Werner

My name is Jade, I work at the Mental Health Center of Denver, and I’m a member of SEIU Local 105. I’m particularly proud of that last one, though.   I started my career in domestic violence services, and in 2015 I moved to community mental health.  I worked for two mental health facilities without a union, and both of them were a nightmare. The difference between this job and my previous ones couldn’t be more clear.

At my first job, my coworkers and I were under constant stress under the threat of losing our jobs. Programs were closed, projects were shut down, and all staff were notified that the facility would close. We had no say in our day-to-day work, and we had no say in how our jobs would come to a close. Employees who were dedicated to their clients endured until the very end, but management never showed us any concern or compassion.
As a final blow, employees found out that the facility was making a profit even after being told repeatedly that money was being lost.

“We had no say in our day-to-day work, and we had no say in how our jobs would come to a close.”

My next job was an even worse, unsafe, and toxic environment. Our department had an abusive supervisor and a retaliatory and uncaring HR department. Our supervisor would verbally assault employees, prompting us to sign a letter to HR. In retaliation, all of us that signed the letter were written up for unclear reasons. Employees were being denied PTO, given unfair workloads, and threatened with termination. I even witnessed and reported instances of sexual harassment and rape jokes in the workplace. I was outspoken, so my employer’s action against me continued to escalate.

In March of 2019, I started working at MHCD and joined my union, and the difference was overwhelming. For the first time, I had a voice at work. I had a straightforward process for addressing issues, and I had active coworkers that wanted to work together to make things better for everyone.

“We won so much by standing together.”

When we did face issues, we fought together to face them. Management couldn’t single me out anymore, and we knew we had the power to make the changes we wanted. We almost went on strike, and we won so much by standing together. We won respect, we won protection, and now, we’ve laid the groundwork for a historic pay scale!

It definitely wasn’t easy, and we’re always working to make MHCD better, but we have the power to make it happen. Without our union, management could deny us, punish us, and even fire us. I know this because, like so many others, I’ve lived through it. That’s why I’ll always be active in my union, I’ll never take it for granted, and I’ll always ask you to join me by signing up as a member!