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New Report Reveals Depth of Pay Inequity at Audubon Society

Bird Union releases new analysis finding systemic inequities for women and BIPOC staff at the national conservation organization.

NEW YORK – The National Audubon Society, led by Dr. Elizabeth Grey, claims that equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging are central to its values and actions, but a new analysis by the Bird Union-CWA finds that the group’s pay structure for employees has systemic disparities based on gender and race. In one job category, white men on average make 13 percent more than white women and 16 percent more than BIPOC women.

Audubon has a well-documented history of fostering a toxic work culture for women and people of color, and this report finds that those deep-rooted inequalities result in women and BIPOC employees earning thousands of dollars less than their white, male colleagues. Audubon’s spending on executive pay, meanwhile, has increased by 60 percent since 2019.

The report reveals the human toll of Audubon’s unequal pay. “I would not be able to have kids, given the choice, unless I am paid at least an additional third of my current salary,” said Ashley Lockwood, an educator at Audubon Center at Riverlands in Missouri. “I have to donate plasma twice a week to supplement my current salary. I also qualify for and need to utilize SNAP food assistance to pay for the rising cost of groceries and basic essentials. It is time for Audubon to negotiate fair and equitable wage increases for the people who work to make Audubon’s mission a reality.”

Emily Ohman, Senior Coordinator of Community Science at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center in California, reports, “My merit-based salary increase and cost of living raise are being withheld for being a Union member; if this was not disgraceful enough, I have to work a part-time job just to make ends meet. I have been food insecure for the totality of my time at this job and have experienced such extreme bouts of acute hunger that I have forgone meals for multiple days so I could afford to pay my bills. We’ve had enough of the discretionary pay raises that perpetuate unequal pay.”

In December, Audubon announced merit-based, discretionary annual raises for staff but withheld raises for union members. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that, across four cases, Audubon violated federal labor law during its negotiations with the Bird Union-CWA by bargaining in bad faith and violating the rights of its workers when Audubon rolled out new, enhanced benefits only to non-union staff while withholding the benefits from union staff.

To achieve equitable wages and a more sustainable workforce, union members are calling on Audubon to abandon its arbitrary and opaque system of discretionary pay increases ostensibly based on merit and instead commit to regular and equitable cost-of-living increases. The Bird Union has spent two years negotiating with Audubon for a fair union contract that would guarantee a more equitable pay structure.

The full report is available at


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