NRDC staffers fear looming layoffs

By Robin Bravender | 09/22/2023 04:19 PM EDT

Employees at the environmental group are asking management to voluntarily recognize their employee union. 

Green 2.0

Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington on Dec. 13, 2022. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Staff at the Natural Resources Defense Council publicly shared concerns Friday about the organization’s workplace culture and expressed fears about possible layoffs at the green group.

A union representing NRDC employees sent a letter Friday to the group’s president and CEO, Manish Bapna, asking that the group voluntarily recognize the Washington-Baltimore News Guild — part of Communication Workers of America — as the staff’s collective bargaining representative.

Separately, the NRDC union’s organizing committee sent a letter to Bapna and NRDC’s leadership team laying out concerns about the green group as a workplace.


“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.”

Staff also wrote that “layoffs are expected to occur as soon as next week; yet neither the criteria for selection, the terms of severance, nor the number of those impacted have been revealed to us.”

That has forced employees to “guess at the likelihood of our departure and decide whether to plan for the possibility that we will have no job, no income, and no healthcare this time next month — all while continuing to do our jobs to help make NRDC as successful as it can be,” staff wrote.

Unionization could help rectify some of those issues, employees said.

“A union is a tool by which employees can engage in meaningful dialogue with leadership,” they wrote.

And as “layoffs approach, our immediate priorities at this time are to uplift the fairness and dignity concerns that are wrapped up in severance pay determinations, appeals processes, and in continuity of the health insurance plans that we and our families rely on,” they wrote.

Other green groups, including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, have announced layoffs this year.

“We look forward to working with colleagues — and their representatives — who are seeking unionization. NRDC supports the right of all employees, including its own, to organize and advocate for themselves,” Bapna said Friday in a statement.

NRDC staff first publicly announced their unionization effort in March. The New York-based environmental organization was founded in 1970 and employs more than 700 people including lawyers, scientists, economists, policy advocates and others working across the United States and around the world.

Employees at E&E News and its parent company POLITICO unionized in 2021, joining NewsGuild-CWA.