National Audubon Society Found in Violation of Labor Law After 18 Months of Negotiations with Union

New York, N.Y. – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that the National Audubon Society has violated national labor laws during negotiations with its union employees, represented by the Bird Union-CWA.

The union workers of the Bird Union-CWA have been working to negotiate a first contract with Audubon for 18 months. The negotiations have been overseen by a federal mediator since March.

Across four cases, the NLRB has determined that Audubon has bargained in bad faith or violated the rights of their union employees. Audubon:

  • Refused to bargain with its union members over minimum salaries and refused to share the market wage data used to develop the new salary structure.

  • Unilaterally imposed changes to the union members’ healthcare plan without negotiating with the union. The new plan raised costs for union members. Healthcare benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining that must be negotiated in good faith.

  • Denied union members new and enhanced benefits that were given to non-union employees.

  • In several other instances, Audubon has failed to provide certain financial documents to the union that were relevant to negotiations. "Since day one, we've urged Audubon to respect federal labor laws,” said Gloria Middleton, President of CWA Local 1180. “Dr. Gray's spokesperson dismissed our concerns, but the NLRB's decision to issue a complaint on the four charges vindicates our case. We'll continue to defend our members – just as they safeguards birds – using all legal means."

“We have been fighting for so long to have a voice in making Audubon a better place to work and we remain committed to bargaining in good faith,” said Kassandra Smith, who serves on the union negotiating committee. “We urge Dr. Gray to join us at the bargaining table to get a fair contract now.”

Despite the workers’ collaborative approach to forming their union and negotiating a fair contract that strengthens the organization, Audubon management has taken multiple actions to delay and derail the process. After a majority of eligible workers demanded recognition in 2021, Audubon forced workers to go through 12 separate regional union elections overseen by the NLRB instead of voluntarily recognizing the will of their employees.

Since negotiations began, Audubon has hired the notoriously anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson and has at times gone months without meeting with the workers’ bargaining committee. While some tentative agreements have been made, Audubon has not agreed to wages or benefits.

“Audubon enslaved people. He bought and sold humans like horses. That is evidence enough to recast the hero into a different role. The organizations bearing Audubon’s name must press forward in this new light and decide who and what they want to be.” — Black ornithologist and author J. Drew Lanham in Audubon magazine

“We must recognize that the institution of slavery in America’s past has a deep connection to institutions in the present . . . Audubon didn’t create the National Audubon Society, but he remains part of its identity.” — historian Greg Nobles on