CWA Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against National Audubon Society As Nonprofit Unlawfully Cuts Staff Healthcare
19 Dec 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, December 16, 2022 MEDIA CONTACT: Steph Derstine, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512.820.7903
Amid tense contract negotiations, workers are sounding the alarm on Audubon’s continued anti worker behavior and refusal to bargain in good faith
Audubon workers demand CEO Dr. Gray and Audubon Board reinstate healthcare while negotiations stall due to Audubon’s refusal to provide financial information
Washington, D.C. — The Communications Workers of America (CWA) filed two Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the National Audubon Society on behalf of more than 250 Audubon workers and members of CWA. The charges come in response to Audubon leadership’s decision to unilaterally cut workers' healthcare benefits amid stalled contract negotiations and refusal to respond to the union’s numerous information requests regarding worker wages.
Workers are collectively demanding that Audubon CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray, Board Chair Susan Bell, and the Board of Directors treat Audubon’s hundreds of union employees with respect by reinstating their healthcare and bargaining in good faith. A petition from Audubon workers outlining these demands can be viewed here.
“As someone with a lifelong disability that requires regular appointments with specialists, as well as the daily use of medical equipment, affordable insurance is a massive factor in my ability to remain with any company or organization,” said Diana Wilson, a Communications Associate at Audubon. “That management would pull this nonsense is a sign to me that so much of what is said about Audubon working towards being inclusive is little more than an empty gesture. The amount of anxiety and fear alone that this is causing Audubon employees is exhausting, point blank, and even after being part of the Earth Day layoffs, I think this is the most disrespected I've ever felt as an Audubon employee.”
Giving no prior notice to the union, Audubon management announced on October 27 that worker healthcare benefits would be cut due to the non-profit’s stated inability to pay the cost needed to keep it, and, on November 14, forced workers to register for new healthcare. Pushing exorbitantly high premiums on Audubon’s lowest paid staff, this unlawful decision was made as management continues to bargain in bad faith, refusing to budge on the issue and to meet workers at the table with a fair contract.
Despite Audubon’s claims of limited resources—which they’ve failed to corroborate with sufficient financial information—the organization has used their funding to hire multiple anti union consultants, further entrenching the nonprofit’s historically anti-worker behavior. In the weeks since they slashed workers’ healthcare, management has ignored two worker information requests and has offered no resolution to the two ULPs.
“Last year, we saw what collective power looks like when we united together and stood strong in our demands for union representation,” said Sonceyrae Kondrotis, operations manager at Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary. “Despite every obstacle thrown in our path by management, we remained undeterred in our fight to ensure Audubon’s workers felt safe and respected on the job, and we were victorious. We refuse to let Audubon leadership undermine the months of hard work we put into making our workplace a more equitable and supportive environment. That’s why we’re calling on management to reinstate our healthcare now and come to the bargaining table with a fair contract.”
Audubon workers formed a union last year to ensure their essential work to protect birds and their ecosystems happens in a fair and equitable workplace. However, one year later, Audubon leadership continues to hold an aggressive stance against its workers’ union by stalling contract negotiations, rejecting equitable proposals produced by the union and repeatedly insulting and undermining their own workforce, leading to high turnover and worker dissatisfaction.
These unscrupulous actions by Audubon add to the nonprofit’s long history of rampant discrimination against its workers and threaten to have devastating impacts on its most vulnerable staff, who fought tirelessly for union representation to ensure that their health and wellbeing would be protected.
“I have recently emerged medical needs that I have not sought treatment for but I don’t go to the doctor because I’m afraid it will lead to our savings being depleted. I'd rather save the money and put it towards my kids' futures. I come from a very humble background, which forced me to do more than my fair share of hard work to get to where I am today and I don't want them to struggle like I did,” said Refugio Mariscal, a GIS Analyst at Audubon. “ I shouldn't have to be making these kinds of decisions. It’s time Audubon is held accountable to workers like me that keep the nonprofit up and running. We are not going to back down until our healthcare is reinstated and Audubon is ready to bargain in good faith.”
About Audubon for All/CWA: Audubon for All Union is the staff union of the National Audubon Society working together to build a better organization for people and birds, in partnership with the Communications Workers of America.
About Communications Workers of America: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.