Employees at Integral Care, Travis County’s mental health agency, want to unionize
Employees at Integral Care, the nonprofit that manages mental health care across the Austin area, intend to unionize.
A group of more than 20 employees gathered at Integral Care's South Austin headquarters Monday morning, dropping off a letter to the nonprofit's CEO, David Evans, informing him of their intent.
Employees say unionization would help address understaffing and high turnover at the mental health authority. Nearly 90 employees signed the letter in support of the union.
Alice Navarro, a community worker with Integral Care, said she's had chronic respiratory conditions that aren't covered by the nonprofit's health benefits. She's said she's had to balance work while also dealing with her illness. She can't afford to see a specialist currently, and because of her condition, she can't do her job, which consists of meeting in person with people who need mental and behavioral health services.
"I jokingly said to my colleague, I know our vision is 'better living for everyone,' but does that also apply to our staff?" she said. "Because I'm a community worker, and I'm expected to meet with clients in the community, and how can I meet with clients when I'm in this condition?"
Navarro said many of her clients are homeless, or, if they are housed, she often has to meet them in their homes, which is tough if she's not feeling well.
Raven Rojas, a rehabilitation specialist with Integral Care at the Community First Village, primarily works with people transitioning out of homelessness. She says the wages she's paid right now aren't livable in light of Austin's issues with affordability.
"Our main issue is that we don't have livable wages to maintain housing and bills in Austin," she said. "It's just tragic, because we're providing services to disadvantaged populations, but at the same time we are being oppressed in a way as well."
In a statement to KUT, Integral Care said it was aware of the letter but didn't specify whether it would support the effort.
"We are taking the time necessary to review this information thoroughly and reply in a timely manner," the statement read. "Integral Care values our employees and is always open to listening to and understanding employee concerns."