Two years in the past, I attended the 2019 Audubon Convention in Milwaukee, and in a narrative about it, I wrote:
“In addition to its work for chook conservation, Audubon during the last a number of years has embraced a piece ethic that makes all individuals really feel welcome. It’s referred to in brief as EDI — fairness, variety, and inclusion. The ethic was integrated into the conference’s theme — ‘Audubon for Everyone’ — and got here up in additional than one of many workshops I attended.”
Now, that article and the message despatched throughout the conference looks like happy-talk and window dressing. If you haven’t been following information in regards to the National Audubon Society these days, the group has been embroiled in controversy for the higher a part of a yr over its remedy of staff, particularly staff of coloration, ladies, and the LGBTQ neighborhood.
In the early months of the pandemic, Audubon laid off greater than 100 staffers in April and June 2020; the primary spherical of layoffs was introduced on Earth Day. In addition, the price of staff’ healthcare elevated throughout the pandemic. A Politico report final November revealed an inside survey of staff that confirmed deep dissatisfaction amongst staff.
Allegations of a poisonous work atmosphere had been confirmed in an audit by legislation agency Morgan Lewis. It discovered that Audubon “has a tradition of retaliation, worry, and antagonism towards ladies and folks of coloration.” The audit additionally beneficial better workers participation within the decision-making course of and extra honest efforts to advertise variety, fairness, and inclusion.
A push for a union
In April and May of this yr, former CEO David Yarnold and different senior managers left Audubon, and staff have been pushing for a union with the Communications Workers of America. The union is known as Audubon for All.
And whereas unions could also be extra related to manufacturing firms and different organizations with massive blue-collar workforces, they’re not remarkable at massive nonprofits. Environmental nonprofits Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Sunrise Movement, and 350.org all have unions which can be acknowledged by administration. And simply in the previous couple of weeks, staff on the Center for Biological Diversity have started organizing a union, and its CEO agreed to a card verify, highlighting the rising pattern of union organizing amongst nonprofits.
The Audubon for All organizing course of started earlier this yr, and an article in Energy & Environment News in mid-March famous that staffers say “they’re assembly sharp resistance from the group’s administration, which has employed one of many nation’s most well-known union-busting companies.” Audubon administration denied that the agency, Littler Mendelson PC, was employed to interrupt up the union, however E&E News reported:
“Littler’s web site states that’s certainly one of its specialties, and a handbook from the agency obtained by E&E News lays out a number of methods for combating unionization efforts. ‘Our deep expertise in representing administration serves as a robust counterpoint to the world’s strongest labor organizations,’ its web site states. ‘We information firms in creating and initiating methods that lawfully keep away from unions or successfully reply to unconventional company campaigns.’”
On May 27, greater than half of Audubon’s non-management staffers voted by way of a card-check course of in help of a union. In mid-June, union organizers delivered a petition to Audubon headquarters in Washington with greater than 10,000 signatures from individuals supporting the employees’ proper to unionize. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) voiced their help for staff and known as for Audubon to voluntarily acknowledge the union. Union organizers additionally held a rally exterior the headquarters to deal with ongoing points at Audubon and argue for the union.
Organizers say the brand new interim CEO Elizabeth Gray has refused to voluntarily acknowledge the union. In late May, Gray stated in a press release:
“Audubon publicly commits to remaining impartial all through the organizing and voting course of. We is not going to marketing campaign towards the union in any approach and are prepared to work with union organizers to carry an election as quickly as attainable.”
Up subsequent: An NLRB election
Yesterday, Audubon issued a press release saying it “urged the Communication Workers of America (CWA) to submit a petition by mid-July for a union election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).”
Gray stated within the assertion: “Audubon made clear on May 14th that it eagerly helps a good, open, democratic election course of administered by the NLRB that may enable all union-eligible staff to anonymously make this selection for themselves. We urge the union organizers to submit the petition to NLRB and begin the election course of as quickly as attainable immediately.
“Every one that has a stake ought to have a vote.
“The NLRB conducts roughly 1200 union elections a yr—it’s the gold commonplace for union elections and we’ve got dedicated to honoring the outcomes of a good election held by the NLRB.”
It’s value noting that different environmental nonprofits haven’t required an NLRB election to acknowledge a union.
Today, Audubon for All introduced it has filed for simply such an election. “Dr. Gray stated that Audubon was prepared to work with the union to carry an election as quickly as attainable however has rebuffed our requests,” stated Shyamlee Patel, a finance affiliate at Audubon. “Delaying an election and slowing down our organizing course of is not going to preserve us from profitable a union. Refusing an expedited election solely serves to perpetuate Audubon’s poisonous tradition the place higher administration ignores staff’ voices. It’s the precise purpose we’re organizing.”
A spokesperson gave this additional rationalization of the transfer to BirdWatching and shared it on Twitter:
“The Audubon for All union was outraged to be taught late final evening that Interim CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray, Board Chair Maggie Walker, the National Board of Directors, and government management of the National Audubon Society are refusing to conform to an expedited election. We proposed to carry a quick election course of with a trusted third get together, the American Association of Arbitration, by way of a web-based platform to make sure each employee had protected, quick access to forged their vote—particularly necessary for our distributed workers community throughout a world pandemic.
“Audubon administration has regularly delayed this course of by first refusing to voluntarily acknowledge our union, which has the help of nearly all of eligible Audubon staff. They proceed to refuse to signal a legally binding neutrality settlement.
“Now, Audubon administration is shifting the goalposts by refusing our proposal to carry an expedited election by a longtime, revered third get together, claiming that they particularly requested an National Labor Relations Board election—which they didn’t. They merely need to delay. We anticipate they are going to increase objections on the NLRB and stall the election there as effectively. But we’ll prevail. We will proceed to work as a union to construct an Audubon for All.”
Why ought to birders, whether or not they’re members of Audubon or not, care about administration/worker relations on the largest nonprofit within the U.S. devoted to chook conservation? I believe the reply is pretty apparent, however right here’s how three present staff reply:
“I’ve seen a number of of my coworkers let go along with zero warning and watched my well being premiums go up — all throughout a pandemic,” stated Safiya Cathey, a supervisor in Audubon’s Grant Accounting division. “I need to be centered on combating local weather change and saving birds’ habitats, not whether or not I’ll be capable to afford a physician’s go to. In order to battle for the birds, we have to battle for ourselves, which is why this union is so necessary.”
“Audubon’s mission is to help birds and their ecosystems, however the group appears to not acknowledge that its staff are on the entrance of that battle,” stated Alisa Opar, a options editor at Audubon Magazine. “We work at Audubon not solely as a result of we’re captivated with conservation and devoted to placing our experience to work for the birds. We can’t try this to the most effective of our capacity when our determination to unionize will not be being revered and we aren’t given a voice on the job. It’s time administration realizes that.”
“Audubon wants to have a look at these different environmental teams organizing and ask why we aren’t standing beside them on this battle. Why is administration letting us fall behind?” stated Tykee James, Audubon’s Government Affairs Coordinator, who can also be co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek on Twitter and host of the On Word for Wildlife podcast. “If administration actually desires to usher in a brand new period of change, they should help their staff and guarantee a good election course of.”