When was the first time you thought about decent work? For me, it was not during the first few jobs I had as a student. I was ready, willing, and eager to work as a young person, and because of my privileges, did not have to actively think about decent work conditions. Honestly, I was happy to just be hired! I made minimum wage and that seemed good enough.
After a few years of working full-time, I started encountering confusing situations that finally made me think twice. For example, I once learned that a co-worker had successfully negotiated for health benefits I was told we were both ineligible for. Equally confusing was when I realized that my peers, unlike me, had access to paid professional development while working at organizations with a smaller budget than where I was employed. Even now, those experiences remain in my memory as confusing because I never asked anyone why things were the way they were. As a young worker, I did not know who to turn to with my curiosities, or to express my frustrations and desires for clarity and change.
Eventually, I realized, decent work is the change I want to see for other workers like myself and for those who will enter the not-for-profit sector in the future. Decent work would mean standards and investments in the workforce that are transparent, consistent, and which put people first. Workers would not be left wondering or having to negotiate because employers would already have their employees’ best interests in mind.
The young professional’s perspective is a great way to examine decent work. As a diverse and women-dominant sector, the perspectives of women, people from marginalized communities, and people from multi-oppressed communities are also lenses through which we can push our ambitions around decent work. Our colleagues at the Ontario Nonprofit Network have been considering decent work for some time and have created a growing collection of valuable resources to advance decent work commitments. This month, they also launched the Decent Work for Women microsite.
There is so much sector-strengthening work remaining ahead of us and it is a growing list of priorities. At the forefront of this energy and at the top of many organization’s lists right now is the commitment to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). With this strong sense of urgency behind JEDI initiatives, how much time and energy should we put into “decent work”?
A closer examination of decent work beyond salaries and compensation reveals that committing to decent work is actually part and parcel of advancing JEDI in our sector. Decent work means advancing economic justice for workers, providing equitable workplace supports and accommodations, diversifying the decision-makers who review human resource policies, and creating truly inclusive workplace cultures where all can come to work as their full selves. It can mean all of this, and more.
This is why decent work matters, and now is the time for us to put it under the sector spotlight at BOSS. Decent work provides a workers-centered focal point in the immensity of JEDI work and the long journey we are now on to “build back better”. But simply emphasizing decent work matters through this blog post is not enough. We need to take action by first critically examining our current processes and policies around decent work, committing to remove the ones that create harm, and also creating new ones that challenge the status quo.
We invite you to join us in taking action for decent work at this year’s BOSS, and stay tuned for more on our Decent Work Peer Network (coming soon)!
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