Lines For Life Workers File for Union Representation

PORTLAND, OR - A strong majority of the over 160 eligible staff at Lines for Life, a 24-hour crisis line non-profit based in Portland, submitted union authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in late December, culminating in a union vote set for February.

Lines For Life operates several behavioral health crisis and support helplines throughout the state of Oregon and nationally, with services including the Suicide Lifeline, Alcohol & Drug Helpline, Racial Equity Support Line, Military Helpline, Senior Loneliness Line, and Youthline. The union-eligible group includes Crisis Intervention Specialists, Youthline staff, Counselors, Leads, as well as administrative and support staff. 

The demand for our services has increased exponentially with the rise of the pandemic. Our goal is to create a workplace where our voices are heard and valued as catalysts for change; not only to create a more equitable work environment - but to also better support our callers in crisis.” said Becca Ryan Roberts, a Crisis Intervention Specialist at Lines for Life. By forming their own union, staff will have a seat at the table with management, with input in the decisions that affect them and their clients. According to their website, Lines for Life workers answered 170,000 calls last year.

Beginning this summer, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) will launch 988, a 3-digit shortcode (like 911) for calling or texting for help in a mental health crisis. This will be paired with increases in federal and state funding to many of the crisis call centers that answer NSPL calls, including Lines for Life.

"Because 988 will increase demand for our services, now is a critical time for organizations like Lines for Life to work alongside staff to address internal issues including understaffing, high turnover, racial and other identity-based inequity, and lack of staff support,” added Melanie Altaras, Lead Content Writer at Lines for Life. “We believe that forming a union is the best way to ensure that workers' needs will be addressed during this time of growth and change and that unionizing will ultimately help us provide higher quality services to those in crisis."

Lines for Life’s filing is yet another group of Behavioral Health workers who are coming together with Oregon AFSCME.

“When workers’ voices are respected not only are their working conditions greatly improved but so do the outcomes of the clients they serve. We hope Lines for Life will respect these workers’ rights and not interfere in their union election” said Stacy Chamberlain, Executive Director of Oregon AFSCME.

Following submission of the authorization cards, workers had requested Lines for Life CEO Dwight Holton voluntarily recognize their union, or at least remain neutral in the NLRB election process.