Non-profit becomes one of the few organizations in the South to model the partnership and respect that collective bargaining represents.
After more than a year and a half of negotiations, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the SPLC staff. The SPLC Union, represented by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, reached agreeement with management to finalize negotiations on the deal Wednesday evening.
“This is a proud day for the SPLC — true to our work and true to our values, we are proud to be a unionized organization,” said SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang. “SPLC has fought for, supported, and partnered with unions for decades. Union values are in our DNA.”
The final set of tentative agreements is the result of close to sixty sessions between workers and management. The individual agreements will be combined to form a contract between the union and SPLC’s management.
“This agreement took the energies, commitment, and talent of so many of us; we would not be where we are today without the hard work and efforts by all involved,” Huang said. “Even on the hard days, our commitment to our mission and our values remained strong and true.”
With negotiations completed, the final contract will be put to a vote before the SPLC Union members for ratification.
SPLC employees voted to unionize in December 2019 in the wake of management changes including the departure of co-founder Morris Dees and then-President Richard Cohen. Huang, the former executive director of Amnesty International USA, assumed the president and CEO role at the SPLC one year later.
“When I took this job, with a pledge to rethink how to advance our work fighting for justice and against hate, I believed that ‘change in the South is coming,’ ” Huang said. “As a daughter of the South, I shared that I am ‘eager to work collaboratively with other social justice organizations and advocates to ensure that change improves the lives of all communities.’ ”
With a contract in hand, Huang said she hopes the SPLC will serve as a model for other organizations across the South to improve wages, working conditions, and the overall lives of workers and the communities in which they live.
This agreement “reflects the change we seek and strengthens the SPLC’s ability to fight for a South that is fairer, more equitable and just,” Huang said. “As with any negotiation, and perhaps particularly this first foray, we may not have gotten everything right — and true to all negotiations, no one got everything sought. But we can say with certainty we are all improved by the outcome and we will continue to improve.”
Top picture: (Credit: SPLC)