Mental health counselors at Chicago’s Orthogenic School, a residential treatment center and therapeutic school for children and adolescents with challenges, have recently elected to unionize, and the decision has been recognized by the school’s administration.

“The union will allow counselors and administration to work together to improve overall working conditions,” one of the school’s workers, Loren Sargent, said. “The union will improve staff conditions, which will ultimately improve student conditions as well.”

A major stepping stone in the decision was AFSCME’s United We Heal campaign, which included a petition created by AFSCME Council 31. The petition garnered hundreds of signatures from across the country, underscoring the support the counselors have gathered from the leading union for behavioral health workers.

“We are concerned for our students, our safety and the services we provide as we reopen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the organizing committee said in a statement. “We still have a long journey ahead as many serious issues at the O School remain unresolved, including recent layoffs, staffing and ongoing safety issues.”

The workers will soon head to the bargaining table to solidify their concerns, needs, and platform.

Read more about the Orthogenic School’s unionization plans here.