At a Eugene environmental group, workers move to unionize

By Don McIntosh

Workers at the environmental nonprofit Our Children’s Trust are unionizing. Based in Eugene, Oregon, Our Children’s Trust is best known for Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit in which 21 young Americans are suing the federal government for not taking enough action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On Nov. 19, the Our Children’s Trust management received a petition signed by a majority of its 16 workers asking for voluntary official recognition of their choice to join Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7901 and asking for a response by Nov. 22.

Our Children’s Trust workers think unionizing could help them win a greater commitment to diversity in hiring and a more democratic and transparent decision-making process, a spokesperson for the union organizing committee told the Labor Press.

On Nov. 22, workers did get what Local 7901 President A.J. Mendoza described as a favorable and respectful response from the president of the board. On Nov. 25, Local 7901 went ahead and asked the National Labor Relations Board to schedule a union election, but the request could be withdrawn if management agrees to voluntarily recognize the union.

Local 7901 has its base at telecom employers like Centurylink and AT&T, but it also represents workers at half a dozen non-profits, including Bark, First Unitarian Church, Free Geek, Fund for the Public Interest, KBOO, Portland Jobs with Justice, and Voz Workers Rights Education Project, as well as union staff at SEIU Local 503 and the Teamsters.

The union effort at Our Children’s Trust comes amid a recent surge of nonprofit unionization:

  • In July, workers at the League of Conservation Voters announced a union, which management recognize on Aug. 23.
  • On Oct. 10, workers at Food and Water Watch asked for voluntary union recognition; that hadn’t happened as of press time.
  • On Oct. 16, workers at the climate change group announced their intent to unionize.
  • On Nov. 7, over 300 workers at the anti-hate-group Southern Poverty Law Center petitioned for a union election. The notoriously wealthy group, which last year reported $492.5 million in assets, has hired a union-avoidance law firm. A vote will be held by mail, with ballots counted Dec. 16.

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