Greenpeace Workers Launch Union Drive

A majority of employees at the non-profit asked for voluntary recognition on Monday, adding momentum to an organizing boom in the nonprofit sector.
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Flickr/Howard Lake

Workers at Greenpeace USA announced their intent to unionize on Monday, and asked for voluntary recognition of their union from management.

The announcement comes during an organizing boom in the non-profit sector. Greenpeace employees have affiliated with Progressive Workers Union, which represents 400 workers at non-profits, including the environmental advocacy groups, the Sierra Club and 350.org. In recent months workers at the Sunrise Movement have also pushed to unionize.

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“We must acknowledge and repair the disproportionate harm in our workplace, especially among BIPOC, transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming workers, as well as women on staff,” the Greenpeace workers said in a press release.

Greenpeace workers want equitable policies on pay, benefits, severance, and leave policies, as well as adjustments on how grievances are filed and transparency on the non-profit’s finances at the organization, which has led the global environmental movement since its founding in the 1970s.

“Greenpeace isn’t exempt from being part of the non-profit industrial complex,” Alice Kurima Newberry, a community engagement and training specialist at Greenpeace in Washington DC, told Motherboard. “We’re living in a pandemic and movements are changing so rapidly. It feels like as an organization that’s fighting for a future, we can’t stay still. We want to have a seat at the table and fight for change we want to see in the world.”

At mission-driven nonprofits, strategies for going public with a union drive often look different than they do at regular companies, as workers feel torn between protecting an organization’s goals, which they believe in, and fighting for their own labor rights from management.

"Greenpeace USA recognizes the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain,” Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director, told Motherboard. “We share the goal of advancing justice within and beyond our organization. This is a momentous day for the organization and for our goal of ensuring Greenpeace USA is an inclusive, fair, and effective place for all employees to work. Greenpeace USA management welcomes discussions with workers and the Progressive Workers Union."