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Social Work Unionization & Fair Pay: A Rant

by Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
The Political Social Worker

I hate when people say well “I didn’t go into SW to get rich” as a response to discussions about social work pay and unions.  It’s a way of saying “you made your bed now lie in it and don’t complain.” This is not about getting rich, it is about fair pay for the expense and work we put into being social workers.  Most social work positions require us to have a Masters degree (this often includes student loans) plus we have to pay fees to take, then maintain, our licenses & registrations.  In addition we need to take continuing education courses (even if your state does not require it you still want to do this to stay up to date).

Despite this many in the profession can not maintain a household on what the average social work position pays.  In what other profession do you obtain a graduate degree plus professional licensing and still not be able to live independently on a full-time salary?  All my peers in the filed are either living with their parents or are co-inhabiting with a partner who can split the cost of living with them.

We need to have these discussions instead of trying to shut them down because we find it unseemly for social workers to be asking for fair pay.  Furthermore, we need to actually do something to improve the working conditions social workers face.  We have to tools to connect with one another, so what will it take for social workers to actually come together to call for reforms?

If you have not done so I suggest joining socialworkhelper.com and participating in the Social Work Reform Think Tank.


photo credit: Gordon Griffiths [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons


Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

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