Audubon forms union – E&E News


Employees of the National Audubon Society officially formed a union today after a controversial year-long campaign that highlighted workplace issues and deadlocks with management.

By a 90-14 margin, eligible National Chapter staff members voted to join the Communications Workers of America, who will represent them in contract negotiations.

“I’m so happy,” said Shyamlee Patel, financial partner at Audubon. “I am happy that our supporters have been willing to stay with us as a union through the obstacles we have encountered.”

‘Audubon for All’ union campaign follows reports of systemic workplace issues, including botched diversity training, such as POLITICO reported Last year.

Additionally, there have been two rounds of layoffs, including one on Earth Day. (Audubon said these were linked to COVID-19 and some of those employees have been rehired.)

A third-party audit further confirmed that there was a ‘culture of retaliation, fear and antagonism’ towards women and people of color (Green wire, May 6).

Union organizers also sharply criticized Audubon for hiring notoriously anti-union company Littler Mendelson PC (Green wire, The 17th of March).

The culmination of these issues led to the resignation of CEO David Yarnold.

The vote means Audubon joins several other major environmental groups that have formed unions, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the Sunrise movement.

But the campaign encountered some challenges.

Organizers initially asked the leadership of the national group to voluntarily recognize their union, which management refused to do – forcing a vote from the National Labor Relations Board.

Audubon management said the election was the fairest way to determine support for the union, and provided advice he sent managers urging them to remain neutral.

Today interim CEO Elizabeth Gray said Audubon respects the decision to form a union.

“We strive to ensure that our workplace is a place where all of our employees are respected, valued and empowered,” she said in a statement. “As we have stated throughout this process, Audubon executives honor the outcome of this election and look forward to working constructively with the union on a collective agreement.”

Patel said the union campaign felt management opposed their efforts but, to their credit, did not conduct an aggressive anti-union campaign.

The union will now endeavor to solicit the most pressing concerns of its members to bring to management. Patel expects efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as strong healthcare to be put in place.

“Audubon has been named as not being the most hospitable to those with marginalized identities or some from marginalized communities,” she said. “Our hope is that we stand together as a union, we can help uplift some of those in marginalized communities and amplify their voices.”


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