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Another behavioral health victory as crisis-line workers join Oregon AFSCME

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By Oregon AFSCME, AFSCME International Staff ·

Over the last few weeks, employees at Lines for Life, a 24-hour crisis line nonprofit based in Oregon’s largest city, voted by an overwhelming majority to join Oregon AFSCME.

Lines for Life operates several behavioral health crisis and support helplines throughout Oregon and nationally, with services including the Suicide Lifeline, Alcohol & Drug Helpline, Racial Equity Support Line, Military Helpline, Senior Loneliness Line, and Youthline. The union-eligible group includes crisis intervention specialists, Youthline staff, counselors, leads, as well as administrative and support staff. 

“I am so proud of all the work my co-workers and the community we’ve built have done to get here, and I am very excited for the next steps at the bargaining table. Our hope is to continue this work to make sure every worker's voice is heard and represented in the crafting of our contract,” said Becca Ryan Roberts, a crisis intervention specialist. 

Starting this summer, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) will launch 988, a 3-digit shortcode (like 911) for calling or texting for help during a mental health crisis. This will be paired with increases in federal and state funding to many of the crisis call centers that answer NSPL calls, including Lines for Life.

Lines for Life’s successful union drive marks yet another group of behavioral health workers who are forming a union through Oregon AFSCME. Since 2016, 1,375 behavioral health workers across the state have affiliated with Oregon AFSCME to build power at their workplaces, according to the council.

“We are excited for these workers to have won a voice in their workplace and join our union family,” said Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Stacy Chamberlain, who’s also an AFSCME vice president, referring to Lines for Life workers. “As with all employers, we are hopeful that Line for Life will work in good faith as we negotiate a first contract to help provide the resources and support necessary as we work to improve employee and client outcomes.”

AFSCME’s United We Heal campaign seeks to give behavioral health workers across the country the opportunity to gain a voice on the job. AFSCME is the largest behavioral health workers union in the country with more than 50,000 members providing behavioral health, mental health and substance use disorder services.

Our union has been at the forefront in bringing recognition and resources to these essential workers. And as the country continues to repair itself after the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see how critically important it is for behavioral health workers, like those at Lines for Life, to have a seat at the table.

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