We are union proud and union strong at the Budget & Tax Center

As the chair of NC Budget & Tax Center’s staff union, I’m so proud to say that we’ve been a unionized workplace since our first day of operations. Our small-but-mighty union is a member of the National Organization of Legal Service Workers, which represents workers in advocacy and legal aid non-profits across the country.

What does belonging to a union mean? It means that our union members collaborate to decide our priorities on key issues like pay, benefits, and workplace policies, and then negotiate with BTC’s management to develop a legally binding contract (a.k.a. collective bargaining agreement) that sets our working conditions. But more than that, being unionized is one important way that BTC tries to make sure that the values that drive our policy work also show up in our internal operations.

One big part of living our values is ensuring adequate and equitable compensation for our staff. We produce research like the North Carolina Living Income Standard to draw attention to the incomes that families across our state need to meet their basic needs. Within BTC, our union works to negotiate a contract with an equitable salary and benefits structure so that all our members can thrive.

Unions aren’t just about pay and benefits, they’re about greater democracy and transparency in the workplace. At BTC we believe that people should have a say in the policies that influence their lives and well-being, and that the process for creating major policies like our state budget should be transparent and accessible for all our state residents. Our union and the bargaining process make sure that our staff get to have a say in our organization’s internal policies and means more transparency in how decisions get made.

By joining the union movement, we also support the role that unions can play in building an equitable and racially just economy. Unions have played a huge role in raising worker wages in the United States: union members earn wages that are 10 – 20% higher than non-unionized workers in the same jobs. And specifically, unions boost wages for the workers who are getting paid the least, making unionization a powerful force for tackling economic inequality. By lifting wages and benefits like retirement savings for the Black and brown workers, unionization also narrows racial income and wealth gaps. Beyond these meaningful material gains, recent research has found that union membership builds racial solidarity, with unionized white workers more likely to endorse policies that benefit Black workers.

At BTC, we’re excited to be part of a growing movement of unionized non-profit organizations, and we especially owe huge thanks to our former colleagues at the NC Justice Center, who worked tirelessly to organize the Justice Center’s staff union and signed their first contract in 2016. Their efforts are the reason we could so easily put an agreement in place for BTC to launch as a unionized workplace when we established our own organization in January 2022.

We also know that belonging to a union isn’t the norm for workers in North Carolina — currently our state has the second-lowest rate of unionization in the country after our neighbors in South Carolina, in no small part because of anti-union state laws rooted in Jim Crow era racism. But while we have a lot of work to do, there’s reason to be hopeful and excited. Starbucks employees in Boone just became the first Starbucks to unionize in the North Carolina, one of over fifty unionized locations across the country. We’re glad to have the protection of a strong union at BTC, and we want the same opportunity for every worker in N.C. to have a say in building a just and dignified workplace.