Recognize Proyecto Solidaridad - FIRRP!
The workers of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project have organized! Our union, Proyecto Solidaridad - FIRRP delivered our union petition to Co-Executive Directors, Lauren Dasse and Lillian Aponte Miranda, this morning, November 1, 2021, requesting voluntary recognition for the union we've formed with OPEIU Local 251.
Please stand in solidarity with us by sending a message to our Co-Executive Directors, asking them to respect the will of their employees by voluntarily recognizing our union without a lengthy, expensive, and contentious process - and to refrain from any union-busting activities. Proyecto Solidaridad - FIRRP will represent over 125 legal assistants, attorneys, accredited reps, social workers, and support staff who actively work to protect the rights of immigrants at the border, and want to ensure that FIRRP continues to stay true to its mission and the communities it serves.
Thank you so much for your support in advance!
Dear Ms. Aponte Miranda and Ms. Dasse:
We are pleased to inform you that a supermajority of employees at the Florence Project have joined together to form a union with Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 251. Over the past year, staff have talked about how our workplace conditions impact our ability to serve our clients. We have collectively decided that forming a union will empower us to better pursue our shared mission of solidarity with immigrants in detention and advocacy for immigrant rights.
By unionizing, we will build a stronger, more sustainable organization for our staff, our clients, and the communities in which we work. We act in the conviction that forming a union will bring us into better alignment with our values as individuals and as an organization. We draw inspiration to unionize from these shared values—each of which speaks to the necessity of this step:
Justice – We believe our union can provide the space and platform to advocate for ourselves, as workers, and for our clients, as people. Forming a union is a tangible action for transformative justice against forms of oppression, including racism, nativism, sexism, sanism, and ableism, within the organization as well as in solidarity with our clients and communities. As an organization that prides itself on being the only organization in Arizona that provides nonprofit legal services to immigrants in detention on a large scale, it is incumbent upon us not to replicate the same systems of oppression and inequity.
Accountability and responsiveness – We are concerned that our office culture demonstrates a lack of accountability and responsiveness at the highest levels of leadership. The most important decisions are made in a small group of well-connected longtime staff who do not respond promptly, efficiently, and effectively to staff concerns about matters that affect our clients. Some of these decisions adversely affect those employees with the least power to change them; they also harm the clients that all of us are committed to serve. We are hopeful that the Florence Project leadership recognizes that the staff are best positioned to identify what is needed for the organization to fulfill our mission. Through our union, we are eager to collaborate with Florence Project leadership to ensure that our contributions and expertise as well as those of the leadership are put to work in order to advocate for our clients with all of our collective expertise and knowledge brought together.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion – Although the Florence Project has made efforts to hire a diverse staff, including from immigrant communities, the inner circle of longtime managers and directors who make major operational decisions remains disproportionately white. The contributions, talents, and concerns of both managers and staff of color have been put in second place in favor of the ensconced leadership of the existing group. A union would help ensure that the Florence Project’s values of equity, diversity, and inclusion are lived out in practice as well as professed.
Sustainability – Florence Project staff are those who work day in and day out to serve our clients, defend them from deportation, and make FIRRP’s vision of justice a reality. We are concerned that, notwithstanding a window dressing of support, excessive caseloads, overwork, and leadership neglect in fixing these issues with the timeliness appropriate to their importance has resulted in staff burnout, turnover, and decreased capacity to serve the very clients that are at the core of our mission.
Integrity – The Florence Project has frequently professed the values listed above. However, Florence Project leadership has not been transparent about critical matters such as pay determination, hiring and firing, operational procedures, and HR policies, concealing instances of pay inequality, discrimination on several grounds, substandard representation of clients, and harm to noncitizen staff. Unionization would allow policies around wages, hours, benefits, personnel matters, workload, nondiscrimination, employment authorization, and other policies of organization-wide concern to be known to all and negotiated in a transparent and democratic manner for the benefit of the organization and for all of our clients.
We ask that you voluntarily recognize our union. We are ready to demonstrate our majority support through a mutually agreeable neutral third party. In the event you are unwilling to proceed with the voluntary recognition process, we will ask the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election. We have authorized Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 251, AFL-CIO, to represent us for collective bargaining. Locals of OPEIU currently represent the workers at organizations such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the Northwest Justice Project, and we’re excited to be joining their ranks.
Your recognition of this union will promote transparency, ensure equity, and increase staff well-being. We look forward to your response and to a robust collective bargaining process. Please respond by November 3, 2021 at 5 PM to email@example.com and include our organizers, Pam Ng at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Nati Kahsay at email@example.com.