NRDC recognizes staff union

By Robin Bravender | 11/03/2023 03:47 PM EDT

The Natural Resources Defense Council is one of many national green groups whose staffs have unionized in recent years.

Green groups unions illustration with union solidarity fists in the air,  wind turbines, recycling symbol, plants, earth, rain, sun

Staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council have unionized under the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, part of the Communications Workers of America. POLITICO illustration/Images by iStock, Freepik

The Natural Resources Defense Council voluntarily recognized its staff union, the green group and the union announced Friday.

The move comes after a union representing NRDC employees in September asked the group’s president and CEO, Manish Bapna, to voluntarily recognize the Washington-Baltimore News Guild (WBNG) — part of the Communications Workers of America — as the staff’s collective bargaining representative.

“Given our shared commitment to organized labor, NRDC and WBNG are pleased to announce that NRDC has voluntarily recognized its union. We commend the organizing efforts and spirit of collaboration that made this possible,” NRDC official Robyn Arville and WBNG Executive Director Cet Parks said in a joint statement.


Voluntary recognition means NRDC’s leadership has agreed to bargain with the staff union without forcing a federally supervised election.

The union will represent all union-eligible employees across the environmental organization — over 350 workers at the time of certification, the statement said.

New York-based NRDC is one of many green groups whose staffers have organized unions in recent years, and negotiations remain tense at some of those organizations. (Employees at E&E News and its parent company, POLITICO, unionized in 2021, joining the NewsGuild-CWA.)

The NRDC union’s organizing committee sent a letter to Bapna and NRDC’s leadership team in September laying out concerns about expected layoffs and about NRDC’s workplace culture.

“Many staff currently feel that their dignity and wellbeing — or that of their coworkers — is not being adequately considered in today’s climate at NRDC,” the letter said. “Staff have expressed concerns around fair and transparent compensation, career development, NRDC’s commitment to equity in its advocacy, and, critically, its treatment of staff of marginalized communities.”

A week after that letter, NRDC announced that it was laying off 6 percent of the group’s staff — including dozens of employees — as part of a “reset.”

The group was making internal changes, Bapna told staff, to “strengthen NRDC for our next chapter and to balance the budget.”

An NRDC spokesperson declined to say exactly how many people were laid off, but said that it was less than 5 percent of staff and fewer than 40 people.