Sierra Club staff to board: Fire Ben Jealous

By Robin Bravender | 06/05/2024 04:34 PM EDT

“Sierra Club is falling apart,” one union leader said after a vote of “no confidence” in the green group’s executive team.

Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous

Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous speaks with a reporter at the Sierra Club's offices in Washington on Oct. 26, 2023. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Sierra Club staffers are pressing the green group’s board of directors to fire Executive Director Ben Jealous and his management team, citing “ongoing dysfunction” within the organization that’s facing its latest round of layoffs.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Sierra Club employee unions asked the board to consider a vote of “no confidence” in Jealous and his executive team and to “begin the process of appointing interim leadership for the organization as quickly as possible.”

The public clash follows the Sierra Club’s May announcement that it would conduct layoffs for the second time in just over a year. Citing continuing budget woes, the group announced plans to cut its workforce by about 10 percent, exacerbating existing tensions between Jealous and his staff.


“Sierra Club is falling apart,” Progressive Workers Union President CJ Garcia-Linz said Wednesday in a statement. “The vote of no confidence clearly shows the profound distrust and dissatisfaction that staff is feeling with Sierra Club’s leadership.”

Sierra Club Board President Allison Chin said Wednesday in a statement, “We understand these are difficult times with no easy solutions. The Board unanimously approved the 2024 and 2025 budgets brought forward by the Executive Team because we agree that urgent action is needed now to reposition the Sierra Club for growth. We will continue to collaborate with the Executive Team to meet our challenges head on.”

Two Sierra Club employee unions — the Progressive Workers Union and the Sierra Employee Alliance — sent the letter to the board Tuesday after their members voted in favor of a resolution of “no confidence” in Jealous and his management team.

Almost half of the Sierra Club’s staff participated in the vote, the unions said. Of the 330 union members who voted, 91.2 percent supported the resolution.

“The Sierra Club Board of Directors just demonstrated its confidence in Ben Jealous and the Executive Team by unanimously passing the 2024 and 2025 budgets,” Sierra Club spokesperson Jonathon Berman said in an email.

“Ben and the Executive Team’s partnership with the Board through this fiscal crisis has and will continue to position the Sierra Club to return to strong financial footing and growth once again,” Berman said. “Making the hard choices — and being honest and transparent about how and why they were made — is never easy. But the Board, Ben, and the Executive Team are committed to leading through this pivotal moment to position the Sierra Club for growth.”

The Progressive Workers Union filed its latest unfair labor practice charge against the Sierra Club, including an accusation that the group failed to bargain with the union over layoffs and restructuring.

The Progressive Workers Union has nine unfair labor practice charges against the Sierra Club under review at the National Labor Relations Board, the union said.