Contemporary practice theories assume that social workers have the capacity to enact their work as a thoughtful, analytic and creative activity, and that these capacities are, or should be, recognized and supported in human services organizations. However, emerging evidence from the front line of social services practice suggests that, despite public policy rhetoric emphasizing service quality, the practice environment is characterized by a lack of support for, if not outright hostility towards, professional social work. In this paper we will consider how the social work profession can collectively improve the recognition of their work as professional activity. We discuss the deprofessionalization of social services work and analyse collaborative strategies for achieving recognition, specifically the formation of professional associations and trade unions. We will focus our discussion on emerging convergences between new professionalism and the new political unionism. Finally, we consider how these new developments can enhance the industrial and cultural recognition of human services work.