“I absolutely love the children – it’s beautiful to see the world through the wonder in their eyes, every day,” says Jennifer Poulston, a preschool teacher. But the joy of teaching can be hampered by the reality of earning a living to support her family.
The U.S. Department of Labor notes most early childhood educators like Jennifer earn so little that they qualify for public benefits. This means that milestones many of us take for granted — like buying a home, starting a family, or going back to school — are out of reach. It also means that people like Jennifer – who love working with children – are often forced to find other jobs or work two jobs to make ends meet. But Jennifer, and other Bon Secours employees in roles that are traditionally lower paying, are exceptions to this statistic.
Jennifer has benefitted from a Just Wage initiative, which was implemented at Bon Secours in 2006 to provide employees an hourly rate of pay that brings dignity and social justice into consideration. A Just Wage guarantees all Bon Secours employees – regardless of job title – earn at least $12.50 per hour, with plans to increase the minimum to $15 per hour by 2020.
“We’ve been able to buy a home, have a beautiful wedding, and now welcome our first baby – a boy – this year. I am also pursuing a degree, which would have been difficult without a Just Wage,” explains Jennifer. “Most important, a Just Wage allows me to do the job I really love.”
“As a preschool teacher, I know I am doing something important for the community, which makes me feel great. Doing this job I love at Bon Secours means I get the pay, benefits, and support that really make a difference. I know that’s not typical for preschool teachers.”
A Just Wage for all.
Providing a Just Wage to employees is an integral part of Bon Secours’ Catholic culture and values. This initiative benefits not only employees, but also Bon Secours Health System itself.
“Providing Just Wages and benefits has helped increase the engagement, loyalty, and long-term commitment of our employees,” explains Freda Cavallaro, VP of System Compensation for Bon Secours Health System.
The higher starting wage offered was great news for Jennifer, who worked in retail before coming to Bon Secours in 2016.
“My starting pay at Bon Secours was above what I was making at my last job, and I was there for 4 years, so that was pretty exciting,” says Jennifer. “But I also have a job that I love, and benefits that are helping me pursue my dreams.”
Working where you matter.
“When you work at Bon Secours, you know you’re valued. You’re treated fairly and paid fairly,” Jennifer says, adding that the caring workplace environment has instilled a sense of pride in what she does.
“Working at the Bon Secours Family Center is important because you know you’re taking care of nurses’ and doctors’ kids,” she explains. “Doctors and nurses need a clear mind, free from distraction. We can give them that by providing a safe and loving environment for their children while they are at work.”
Jennifer also appreciates the affirming culture that defines Bon Secours. “It’s extremely rare to be able to work with genuinely kind-hearted people that want nothing but the best for you,” she says. “Besides being paid fairly and treated fairly, I have great relationships with my co-workers. They even held a wedding party and a baby shower for me.”
Just Wage programs are beginning to take hold in some parts of the country as issues of social justice and reasonable pay become prominent discussions in the media. Rich Statuto, the President of Bon Secours, explains, “We fundamentally believe in the dignity of every member of the Bon Secours team and in treating all people with respect. Paying a Just Wage is simply the right thing to do. It was important to align our actions with our Values.”
Jennifer says she hopes to work with Bon Secours for the rest of her career, and Bon Secours is helping her achieve her career goals.
Through Bon Secours’ tuition assistance program, she’s gone back to school, where she’s close to completing her associate’s degree. After that, she hopes to attend Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing and become a labor and delivery nurse, to combine her aspirations of becoming a nurse with her love of caring for children
“I’m one of the lucky ones who found a great place to work that not only supports my dreams and goals, but also encourages me every step of the way. I’m excited for the future, and what I can accomplish.” she says.