‘Bird Union’ times two: CWA, OPEIU win recognition votes at conservation groups
Workers celebrated saying, "We won our bird union." Photo courtesy of AiudubonForAll

Call the election wins at noted wildlife groups “Bird Union” victories, times two.

That’s because staffers at the Audubon Society headquarters, split between New York and D.C., call themselves the “Bird Union,” and they voted in a 90-14 landslide on Sept. 23 to join the Communications Workers.

And the day before, the four professional employees at the D.C. office of Defenders of Wildlife voted unanimously to join their non-professional staff colleagues there as members of Office and Professional Employees Local 2.

The non-professionals overwhelmingly welcomed them. They had to vote them in, too. That tally was 70-5. The National Labor Relations Board ran all the elections.

The wins add to unions’ continuing success at organizing non-profit groups. Other unions heavily involved in that effort include The News Guild-CWA and the Teamsters.

The effort is needed. Bosses at non-profits, like bosses in private industry, often hate unions. But they also try to take advantage of workers’ passion to serve good causes—wildlife conservation, in these cases—by arguing employees should sacrifice such tangible benefits as decent pay, protection against arbitrary firing, and health care coverage, for the “greater good.”

At the Audubon Society, that didn’t work, especially after management hostility and mistreatment of workers, culminating with a mass firing on Earth Day. When CWA achieved a majority of NLRB union election authorization cards, bosses rejected a request for voluntary recognition, then hired a union-buster to try to browbeat the workers into voting “no.” It failed.

“WE WON!” the “Bird Union,” officially AudubonForAll, exulted in, appropriately, a tweet.

Audubon features a “toxic culture where upper management ignores workers’ voices,” worker Shyamlee Patel previously told CWA. “It’s the exact reason we are organizing.” Added colleague Safiya Cathey: “In order to fight for the birds, we need to fight for ourselves, which is why a union is so important.”

“A supermajority of eligible Audubon workers want to form a union,” AudubonForAll posted on the Internet. The victory showed “the strength and deeply held support of the union at Audubon.

“We look forward to working on a contract to protect and support the hard-working national staff of Audubon, and to supporting any other Audubon workers who want a union.” The headquarters organizing drive caught the attention of members of Audubon’s more numerous field staff, which is non-union, so far.



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.