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Audubon workers across the country join Audubon for All members in the nonprofit’s national headquarters who formed a union with CWA earlier this year
NATIONWIDE -- More than 120 workers across 11 regions at the National Audubon Society voted overwhelmingly in favor of forming a union with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in a string of official National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections last week. The regional Audubon workers will join their colleagues in the nonprofit’s national headquarters who formed a union with CWA earlier this year. Following these landslide victories, over 250 Audubon workers – 70% of the union-eligible workforce at Audubon – are now organized with Audubon for All Union, capping off the workers’ year-long effort to secure stronger healthcare, job security and a voice at the table for all workers regardless of race, gender or background.
Audubon workers’ sweeping win is the latest for the green labor movement and follows successful organizing efforts by workers across the environmental sector, including those at the Center for Biological Diversity, Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club, 350.org and Greenpeace. Audubon workers add to the growing number of conservationists and climate activists paving the way for a stronger alliance between labor and environmentalism and bring to an end a momentous year for union organizing and worker power nationwide.
“I am so proud of my colleagues at Audubon in New York, Connecticut and across the country for making it to this point, securing nationwide union wins and committing to building a better nonprofit,” said Zack Boerman, Forrest Program Associate in Audubon’s Northeast regional office. “We cannot underestimate the importance of this moment and the impact it will have on the future of Audubon and the green labor movement. With a union, we finally have a seat at the table so we can ensure good working conditions and fair treatment of all staff regardless of race or gender. That means we can focus diligently on our work and put in everything we have to better protect birds and the planet.”
In addition to representing workers in the nonprofit’s national headquarters, CWA now also represents Audubon workers across 11 regional offices, including in the Upper Midwest (Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri), Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico), Northeast (New York and Connecticut), the Great Lakes (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin), the Mid Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Maryland), North Carolina, Nebraska, Alaska, Washington, Vermont and California. In total, these 11 regions account for more than 120 Audubon employees, in addition to the 131 workers at the national headquarters.
“After over a year of organizing and fighting for a voice on the job, I am so excited to be joining the Communications Workers of America alongside my brothers and sisters at Audubon,” said Refugio Mariscal, a GIS Analyst in Audubon’s Chicago office. “Having previously been a union member, I know how critical a union is to improving working conditions and ensuring fairer standards in the workplace for all staff. But our union won’t just improve our work lives. It will also benefit our families and help me support my two children with a healthier work-life balance, good pay and better healthcare.”
Audubon employees began organizing to form a union after facing two rounds of layoffs last year, including one on Earth Day, and having the cost of their health care increased amid the pandemic. Workers also point to the fact that all major decisions at Audubon have been made by executives behind closed doors.
“Our nationwide union wins represent more than just a successful organizing effort. They are reflective of the worker power that exists at Audubon and across the environmental sector,” said Sally Maxwell, Education Specialist for Audubon Southwest. “In the last year we’ve gone up against mass layoffs, anti-union efforts by management and a system designed to ignore workers like me who are essential to furthering Audubon’s mission and performing the critical day-to-day work. But we did not let these barriers stop us because we know we can create an Audubon that works for everyone. With a seat at the table, I am excited to help drive some much needed structural reform and ensure Audubon is held accountable to all workers as well as the birds.”
Further fueling the drive to organize was Audubon’s toxic culture which created countless barriers in the workplace, primarily for women and employees of color, and was confirmed by an independent audit. Audubon is one of many environmental organizations grappling with its racist history, and workers there viewed a union as their best opportunity to address those concerns. Today’s win ensures workers a voice on the job as they look to build an Audubon that values the voices and ideas of all employees, not just the decision-makers at the very top.
“In addition to helping us secure better pay, improved healthcare benefits, and job security, a union will also give us the chance to restructure Audubon’s toxic top-down decision-making system that has consistently failed to meet the needs of our frontline staff,” said Pedro Hernández, Audubon’s Outreach & Engagement Manager for Climate Policies in Fresno, California. “Every Audubon worker who has spent the last year organizing understands just how essential the ideas of women and people of color are in meeting Audubon’s mission. Now, with more than 70% of eligible Audubon staff union members, we can make sure our voices are actually being heard.”
“As workers, we have a real opportunity to reform Audubon’s culture and hold management accountable to welcoming all voices at the table,” Hernández added.