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SPLC Response to Union Petition

On November 7, 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center received a notice from the National Labor Relations Board that the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild seeks to represent certain employees through the formation of a union.

SPLC staff members, and their dedication and commitment to the work we do, define who we are as an organization. Nothing is more valuable. Each staff member’s voice matters, and we not only want to honor and respect their voices, but we want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and play a role in this process.

Since receiving the petition, our counsel has spoken to the Guild’s counsel seeking additional information about the request for voluntary recognition. We’ve also had an opportunity to reflect on our transformation process, staff requests for a democratic approach to our work and making space for all voices to be heard.

We have a long history of partnering with unions that goes back decades. At their core, unions reflect values that are in our DNA. Our support for unions and, more importantly, all voices being heard and the right to vote, drive us toward an election and voting process. The boards of directors for both the Center’s C3 and C4 voted unanimously on November 10th to move in this direction and we fully support that. We fight for the right to vote in our advocacy and litigation, and we want to uphold the same principles internally.

We shared this update with the Guild’s counsel on the morning of November 11th, providing them with our rationale and assuring them that we will not engage in an anti-union campaign. SPLC is unequivocally supportive of employee rights in every aspect, especially employees’ right to organize. We look forward to continuing discussions with our staff that will help make the organization stronger for the communities we serve.

We’ve been exploring what the “next generation” of SPLC could look like over the past several months as we undergo an internal and external evolution. Our staff has indicated that a principal transformative achievement would be the creation of more democratic processes and making space for each individual to hold their own agency, regardless of their respective role in the organization. I could not agree more.

This unionization process itself can be an example of the more democratic organization we hope to forge together. Not only will SPLC be a 21st century civil rights organization doing vital work, but we will be a model, demonstrating best efforts to partner with employees to create a respectful environment where all can thrive.

I remain committed to our guiding principles and the values we share: diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.   

I will do my very best to make sure all voices are respected, heard and listened to.

Read the petition here.


Karen Baynes-Dunning
Interim President & CEO