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Exciting Start for the Social Work Chapter

March is National Social Work Month, and this March marks the one year anniversary of the creation of Local 768’s Social Work Chapter on March 22, 2021. Though the Local 768 bylaws have included the option for chapters to form, it has been many years since a formal Social Work Chapter has been recognized.

And why not? With over 1,000 social workers across the city’s hospital and health agencies changes within HHC and Gotham Health facilities.

The Social Work Chapter meeting on Wednesday, March 2nd

What has the Social Work Chapter accomplished so far?

The Chapter has continued to build upon its organizing efforts that it has been developing for over the two past years.

During the height of the pandemic, social workers were grappling with issues from having equal access to scarce PPE alongside the medical staff, reorganizing how to perform social work duties within ever changing COVID restrictions, and advocating for the option to telecommute.

The pandemic highlighted the underlying issues that social workers had dealt with for years - the lack of recognition that the social work role is an integral part of the health care team.

In the midst of the chaos, over 20 social workers from various facilities organized under the Local 768 leadership and collaborated to write a joint letter to the HHC CEO Dr. Mitch Katz, in which specific requests were made such as increased access to PPE, safer work environment policies, and the creation of a senior level social work leadership position to create representation for the social work profession within HHC senior leadership. This type of position was created and by early 2021, Eva Sanders, LCSW was hired as Senior Director of Social Work for HHC.

In June 2021, members of the social work chapter met with the newly hired director. As a result of this initial meeting, there are now regularly scheduled quarterly meetings between Ms. Sanders and advisory members of the Social Work Chapter. The advisory met in September and December of 2021 with much success in creating a collaborative partnership with the new Director.

In October 2021, HHC formally changed the salary for LCSWs (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) in the position of Level II Social Worker to a more competitive rate of $69,000. This change is a result of the union advocacy for more competitive salaries for social workers to increase staff retainment.

What’s Next for the Chapter?

The Chapter’s goals for 2022 include continuing to advocate for equitable compensation for social workers, ensuring that members can access clinical hours and supervision, guaranteeing educational leave for members to create opportunities for learning and growth, and having an active role in the shared governance councils that the new Director of Social Work is creating.

The Social Work Chapter has met on a bimonthly basis and will continue to develop as a forum for HHC social work professionals to learn about policy initiatives and best practices throughout the facilities.

The Chapter is currently electing its Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary leadership roles. The new leaders will be announced shortly.

Jane Lima-Negron is a Social Worker and MAT leader at the Gouverneur WTC program.