A Huge Win for the Coalition Fighting for Better Wages for Human Services Workers

November 30, 2023
Many people posing for ECS Team photo in 2023.

Neighborhood House staff members at the Education and Community Services team retreat

Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Bruce Harrell, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, Council President Teresa Mosqueda, Councilmember Andrew Lewis, and the Councilmembers that joined them, Seattle has taken the first crucial step towards wage equity for human services workers and approved a 7.5% inflation adjustment and a 2% wage equity increase for housing and human services workers.

Neighborhood House is one of several local human services organizations that make up the Seattle Human Services Coalition (SHSC). I am proud to serve as the chair of the SHSC Raising Wages for Changing Lives campaign that advocated for a comparable worth analysis of the Seattle and King County human services sector. The study was funded by the City of Seattle Human Services Department and was conducted by the University of Washington School of Social Work.

The study found that non-profit human services workers are paid on average 37% less than workers in non-care industries. Further, the work done by human services workers is undervalued relative to its required levels of skill and difficulty. The UW researchers made 7 recommendations, the first is to build an across the board 7% (after inflation) wage increase into funding contracts as soon as possible.

Naeem Anis, is an employment specialist at Neighborhood House. He speaks Dari, Pashto, Persian, and English. For over a decade, he worked in his native country of Afghanistan for the United Nations and U.S. Agency for International Development, both relief organizations. At Neighborhood House, people come to see Naeem from Seattle, King and even Snohomish County for his assistance. Yet Naeem has a second full-time night job so that he can earn enough to support his family.

Judy Chin, a Housing Advocate for Neighborhood House testified at the City of Seattle budget hearing in mid-November.

“Our team…works tirelessly to ensure everyone has a safe place to live,” Judy said at the hearing. “However, just last week I was talking to two of my colleagues who bothwork second jobs to make ends meet. One of them works a third job, overnight, with no weekends. Beyond just the absurdity of having to work to live, this leads to higher levels of stress and burnout, which in turn leads to higher turnover, and ultimately inadequate and inconsistent services for our clients.”

Judy Chin, Housing Advocate

Naeem and Judy are just two of our 350 staff members who speak more than 40 languages. We connect people to resources such as jobs, health care, education, and housing.

We are grateful to the City of Seattle for taking the first steps in addressing the link of wages for the human services workforce to racial equity and social justice. We encourage more funders to join our movement.

Janice Deguchi, Executive Director