UNIONIZATION IN THE FIELD OF ABA
I think I am leaning towards agreeing with Dr. Jon Bailey that in order to affect systems-level change, we need a very strong contingency to govern behavior. And there is no stronger tool to address the disparity of power between employees and employers than unions.
I’ve been looking at different collective bargaining models across different industries to see which ones we would want to model ours around and perhaps even piggyback on so that we’re not starting from scratch. Building something leveraging an already existing infrastructure would offer a much quicker path to execution than starting from scratch. Not to mention greater credibility.
The two viable options are the Teachers Union and the Nurses Union.
The issue with going the Teachers Union route is that if we go the education route, funding sources may use the fact that we’re part of the education system as leverage to start denying claims again.
The Nurse’s Union is very attractive for three reasons. It was formed to address virtually the same set of challenges that we are dealing with in the field of ABA. The other reason is that the union’s mission is much broader than just addressing wage-related issues; they address both the compensation and work-related issues that lead to burnout, but most importantly, they take a rational, collaborative approach by partnering with employers to find solutions that can realistically be implemented given the constraints of the system. What I love is that the Nurses union has been able to affect positive, systems-level change for all key stakeholders – patients, employees, and employer organizations – by acting as a vested third party evaluating the needs AND CONSTRAINTS of the system to come up with creative solutions. For example, apparently, the reason hospitals charge for “supplies” is that they were running into the same reimbursement issue; they couldn’t affect reimbursement rates but nurses were demanding higher wages. A way to address that was to begin charging for supplies. Go figure…
Through Special Learning, in my “regular” job as a content creator, I am privileged to work with many exceptional minds. One of the best is Dr. Debbie Coehlo. She is a PhD-level nurse practitioner and one of the most exceptional, passionate, pragmatic, caring, and empathetic mental health professionals I know. She has been the SME on both our ADHD and Psychopharmacology series. Her career spans many years so she has been involved with many programs and initiatives, one of which includes being actively involved in the formation of the Nurses Union. So, as luck or coincidence would have it, we have institutional knowledge and a direct conduit to begin our exploration.
BTs and RBTs and even BCBAs, please don’t give up hope. There are enough people working to fix this broken system that we find ourselves in. Changes are coming. If you need to talk, feel free to contact me.