Civil Rights Organization Staff Seeks Union

An “overwhelming majority” of the staff at one of the nation’s most-prestigious and most troubledcivil rights groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has formally filed election authorization cards to form a union with the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild.

WBNG Organizing Director Bruce Jett announced the filing and reminded interim leaders of the center of its proud history of defending civil and human rights, and sought card-check recognition. SPLC’s human rights chief replied on Nov. 11 the organization prefers a National Labor Relations Board-run election instead.

The staff decided to unionize with the Guild, TNG-CWA Local 32035, after months of turmoil at the SPLC, the nation’s top tracker of hate groups, white nationalism and hate crimes against African Americans, Muslims and Muslim Americans, Jews, Hispanic-named people and other minorities.

SPLC also frequently battles them and racist governments in court. It wins multimillion-dollar judgments that put some haters out of business, plus other cases.

But in the last 18 months, SPLC was forced to fire co-founder Morris Dees and other top leaders due to sexual harassment of staffers and retaliation against whistleblowers. And Montgomery, Alabama, media have reported the charges the organization discriminates against people of color in promotions from within. SPLC’s headquarters are in Montgomery and it has staff elsewhere throughout the South as well as in Washington, D.C. Reports have given the staffers' yearly salaries in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

The staff organizing committee cited both SPLC’s history and those reports in seeking card-check recognition. Jett said if WBNG wins, the bargaining unit would cover approximately 240 workers.

“We ask SPLC’s senior leaders to respect the desire of its dedicated employees to form a Union and have a say in the future of SPLC. Our ultimate mission is #DisruptingWhiteSupremacy, #PursuingEquity, #BuildingSolidarity and #Uniting Workers,” the staff organizing committee said in the first of its information tweets.

“Current leadership committed itself to the task of changing @splcenter’s workplace culture. Collective bargaining ensures workers the opportunity to play a leading role in this transformation,” its second tweet said. “#SPLCUnion #OurTimeOurVoice.”

“All workers deserve an environment free of inequity, discrimination and harassment. Once our union is officially formed, staff will collectively determine its goals to shape SPLC into a workplace that lives by its mission internally as well as externally,” the organizing committee concluded in a formal statement.