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Sierra Club strike averted after deal with union to reinstate some laid-off workers

A strike by workers of the Sierra Club, the prominent environmental organization founded in California, was narrowly averted Tuesday after an overnight 18-hour-long marathon bargaining session.

As part of a deal reached between the Sierra Club and the Progressive Workers Union, which represents workers employed by the organization’s national chapter, 12 workers, including several union leaders, will be reinstated — out of some 70 workers who were recently laid off.

In exchange, the union agreed to forgo a 7% raise for workers the organization had previously agreed to in negotiations. It also agreed to withdraw several unfair labor practice charges it had filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the organization had deliberately delayed bargaining and retaliated against union leaders.

The deal was struck mere hours before picket lines were scheduled to be held at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the organization’s offices in Los Angeles, Oakland and Washington, D.C. The deal appears to have, at least for the moment, put to rest internal turmoil at the environmental group over allegations of retaliatory layoffs and financial mismanagement.

Walter Keady, newly elected president of the Progressive Workers Union, said in a statement that the vote to strike “showed that Sierra Club’s unions are committed to protecting one another in the face of financial trouble at the organization.”

“No deal is perfect, but we are excited that this agreement meets our strike platform and avoids unnecessary harm to the Sierra Club community that could have occurred during a strike,” Keady said.

The Sierra Club agreed that if fundraising stays on track, it will not carry out additional layoffs for at least the next 10 months. Those who will not get their jobs back will receive additional severance and layoff benefits under the agreement.

The deal also settles issues raised in contract talks that have dragged on for the last several months. It covers issues related to overtime hours, pay raises for added job responsibilities, and use of generative AI, among others.

Final negotiations are scheduled over the next week, and a contract agreement is expected to be ratified by the end of the month.

Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous announced the deal in an email to Sierra Club staff midday on Tuesday.

In the email, he thanked the union’s leadership “for their commitment and willingness to work together to reach an agreement” and he emphasized the organization’s “mission critical work” to protect clean air and water.

“We all share a deep love and commitment to the Sierra Club and the dedicated staff and volunteers who are the lifeblood of our organization,” Jealous wrote.

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