Kevin Higgins Jr. and his team did what every American worker must do. They organized a Texas institution and collected the signatures necessary to create a union.
Kevin Higgins Jr. on union organizing
Podcasts (Video — Audio)
“Politics Done Right,” host Egberto Willies delves into the groundbreaking efforts of Kevin Higgins Jr., a hospital transfer coordinator, who played a pivotal role in organizing a union at the Harris Center for Mental Health in Harris County, Texas. This episode exemplifies the power of grassroots activism in confronting the challenges faced by workers in the United States, particularly in sectors that are often overlooked, such as mental health care.
Higgins’ journey is a testament to the resilience and determination of rank-and-file workers who have risen to advocate for their rights and dignity despite long-standing institutional neglect and economic challenges. The struggle at the Harris Center is emblematic of broader issues in the American labor market, where workers often face stagnant wages, limited benefits, and a lack of transparency from management, especially in sectors labeled as ‘non-profit.’ The narrative of Higgins and his colleagues is a beacon of hope and a call to action for workers across the nation, demonstrating the potential of collective action in the face of daunting challenges.
For over two decades, employees at the Harris Center, a critical mental health service provider in Texas, endured minimal wage increases and stagnant benefits. This situation reflects a national issue where workers in essential services, particularly in the non-profit sector, are often undervalued and under-compensated. Higgins’ story underscores the glaring disparities in the American workforce, where executives enjoy hefty salaries and bonuses while their employees struggle to cope with the rising cost of living. This inequity is not just a matter of economics but also of basic respect and dignity in the workplace.
Establishing a union at the Harris Center is a significant milestone in the fight for workers’ rights. Unions have historically been the backbone of the labor movement, advocating for fair wages, safe working conditions, and equitable treatment. However, in recent decades, the role and importance of unions have been systematically undermined, as evidenced by the Powell Memo and other efforts aimed at weakening the progressive movement and, with that, collective bargaining. Higgins’ success in organizing a union, therefore, is not just a victory for the workers at the Harris Center but a beacon for workers across various sectors who the prevailing economic systems have marginalized.
The support from the CWA and local political figures like Texas Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner Rodney Ellis is crucial to this story. Their backing illustrates the importance of having allies in positions of power who understand and advocate for the needs of the working class. This support is vital in leveling the playing field and ensuring workers’ voices are heard in the corridors of power.
Higgins’ advice to other workers seeking to form unions is profoundly relevant. He emphasizes the need to communicate the tangible benefits of unionization, such as better wages, improved working conditions, and a democratic voice in the workplace. This approach is critical in counteracting the decades-long campaign against unionization, which has often misled workers into believing that unions are not in their best interest.
Kevin Higgins Jr.’s experience at the Harris Center for Mental Health is a powerful narrative of resilience, solidarity, and successful collective action. It serves as an inspiring example for workers nationwide, demonstrating the transformative power of unionization in achieving economic justice and workplace democracy. This story is a reminder that workers’ struggles are interconnected, and their successes can ripple across industries and regions, fostering a more equitable and just society.
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