March, often overshadows by Women's History Month, Peanut Month, Frozen Food Month, and Craft Month, is also known as National Social Work Month, dedicated to highlighting the value of social workers in society. Sadly, between my hectic work schedule, crazy patient load, and overall lack of media coverage, I didn't even realize that it was already that "special" time of year.
The bitter part of me feels that National Social Work Month was designed by the NASW to keep us at bay while they continue to take our dues and do nothing about our low pay and stressful working conditions. During Teachers Day and Nurses Appreciation Week, you see these professions being glorified on TV ads and in the news. The other day, I heard a hospice commercial on the radio that emphasized the supportive services provided by nurses. Earlier this month, I saw a Johnson and Johnson Commercial commending a hospice nurse for performing the type of work typically done by social workers. I have yet to see/hear anything on TV or the radio about social workers and Social Work Month.
As my boyfriend told me this weekend, "You social workers knew exactly what you were getting into in terms of pay and working conditions when you signed up for this gig. Stop complaining and actually do something if you're unhappy about it." Not 100% true (as my friends didn't sign up for poverty, and I didn't sign up for significantly less pay doing the same work as nurses), but the boyfriend does have a point about the lack of self-advocacy among social workers. Hence, here is a list of things we can do this month (and every month) to improve our pay, working conditions, and image.
1) Develop a relationship with local/national news media: Comment on news sites, write editorials, and offer to do interviews regarding your area of expertise. Most major local/national news outlets have hotlines where you can call in to report news. This could be the best way to get through to them. Imagine the impact of thousands of social workers nationwide writing/calling in to discuss issues relevant to our profession. For starters, we could all write/phone in about Social Work Month and the important work we do daily.
2) Develop relationships with private companies: It does sound like selling out, but if we want commercials like the aforementioned Johnson & Johnson one, we'll have to start reaching out to such companies and educating them on the importance of social work.
3) Unionize! Unionize! Unionize! If you want to see the benefits of unionizing, just look at the salary and benefits of nurses, police officers, and even teachers (who only work 9 months out of the year). It's pretty obvious that the NASW has done nothing to help us in this regard, so we're on our own for this.
4) Work our way up the administrative ladder: Those at the top of the executive ladder control company policy and wages. Perhaps if we can manage to get in charge, we can work to improve social worker working conditions from the top level.
5) Advocate for social work title protection laws: NOTHING is going to improve while we have non-social workers thinking they can do our jobs. Lobbying for national title protection should be our top priority. This is where our advocacy and community organizing skills should really come into play.
Anyone have any other good ideas? So far, I've written several editorials to the news outlets around my area regarding Social Work Month. Let's all pledge to do at least one thing this month to advocate for our profession, because we deserve better than what we have now.