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ACLU Using Corporate Management Tactics on Its Own Workers

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I was a union organizer for awhile. Most of this was volunteer work, but I was pretty good at it and there were professionals who encouraged me to go into it full time. I was committed to going on to the Ph.D. though. But right before I did so, an SEIU local took me on as a staffer for the summer, figuring they could get something good out of me.

It was the worst job I ever had. Not only was there nothing for me to do, but the atmosphere among the staff was poisonous. The boss was a good organizer but an absolutely awful manager of people and he created terrible working conditions. Everyone was expected to work 12-14 hour days, even when there was no reason to do so. The pay was bad (as are most union organizing jobs. No one goes into it for the money) and the organizers were under constant pressure that made them miserable people. They technically had a union. But the weakest union in the whole AFL-CIO is the organizers union because no one takes it seriously and if you staged a real labor action against the union you worked for, you’d be blackballed. The experience nearly killed the labor movement for me, and I only had to put up with it for 2 miserable months.

So I was not amused to see this story about the ACLU using management tactics against its own workers. The ACLU is usually great on union rights and the rights of all workers to speak out. But you have to treat your own people well and the ACLU isn’t doing that. Top managers are getting huge raises while regular workers are not only seeing wages stagnate, but they are attacking the basic provisions of unionism:

The ACLU, long known as a champion of fair labor standards, stands accused of violating its own workers’ rights. Last March, the ACLU, a nonprofit, began negotiating a new contract for its unionized staff, one void of major benefits employees had enjoyed since the 1970s. The requested concessions from union staff include smaller wage increases, health care costs, and other corporate money-saving measures. But one of the most contentious points, according to union members, is the ACLU’s demand that workers give up the basic “just cause” provision in their contract, which protects workers against wrongful termination by their employers.

Such a provision is one the ACLU has fought for around the nation and essentially protects workers from being fired without just cause. That it would strike it from some employee’s contracts, according to union members, could set a troubling precedent. The ACLU is generally considered the nation’s preeminent defender of the Bill of Rights.

This is completely unacceptable. The ACLU might go through funding crises and need to limit wages. And it might ask workers to start paying into health care. That sucks, but maybe there’s no real way around it. But giving up just cause? There is no good reason for this except that management has decided it wants to run the organization like a corporation.

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