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Conservation Group Employees Form Union

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021   

TUCSON, Ariz. - When most people think of a labor union, images of factory workers, carpenters or pipefitters come to mind. But what about workers on the front lines of the battle against climate change?

Employees of an Arizona-based advocacy group have formed Workers for Biological Diversity. The new union - made up of scientists, lawyers and organizers - was recognized by the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit that advocates for threatened species and other conservation issues.

Center staff attorney and union representative Ross Middlemiss said employees believe a unified workforce can help drive the Center's mission.

"It really came out of a place of value in what we have at the Center and wanting to be a part of the continued improvement and evolution going forward," he said. "We wanted to make the Center a better place, and have a hand in that process."

Middlemiss said other major conservation groups have formed or are in the process of forming similar unions, including 350.org, Human Rights Watch, the Sunrise Movement and the Sierra Club.

The new union was formed under the auspices of the Communications Workers of America, making it part of a nationwide network of labor unions. Beth Allen, CWA communications director, said the union movement among workers at nonprofits is growing.

"When one group of workers in that sector organizes," she said, "the people hear about it and they think, 'Hey, that might be a good fit for our workplace, too.' And they start taking action to look into it, to see if it would be a good fit for them."

The Center for Biological Diversity is based in Tucson and has offices throughout the United States and in Mexico. Its programs include Endangered Species, Environmental Health, Oceans, Public Lands, Sustainability, Environmental Justice, and Climate Law.


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