WASHINGTON – Today, workers with Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement organization advocating to stop climate change and create millions of American jobs, voted to form a union with Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180 in New York. More than 95% of Sunrise Movement staff members voted in support of forming a union with CWA, and management has agreed to recognize the staff union.
In a virtual meeting today with Sunrise Movement staff and management, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) verified the union vote count as Sunrise’s third-party validator, announcing support from 79 out of 82 workers.
“As a youth-led grassroots organization dedicated to climate justice and bringing millions of living-wage jobs to the American workforce, forming a union was a clear step of action for us at Sunrise, and one that we believe embodies our movement’s values and will guide its growth,” said Gabbi Pierce, Internal Communications Coordinator at Sunrise Movement and member of CWA Local 1180. “We know that workplaces are stronger when workers have a voice and are empowered through unionization, and we are thankful for the recognition of our union by Sunrise management, who has supported our organizing efforts from the start. This is a huge step for our movement in our fight against climate change, and for nonprofit organizations everywhere which are increasingly advocating in support of worker rights.”
“The organizing efforts by Sunrise workers show that unions are essential in creating a foundation for a strong, equitable environment that elevates the voices of all workers,” said Senator Markey. “I’m proud of these passionate young people who embody the true value of unions in the strongest traditions of the labor movement and are stepping out as advocates for workers’ rights and good American jobs. Their dedication to empowering their team with strong support from management sets an important precedent for our country’s workplaces.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought national attention to the need for unions due to increasingly precarious and unsafe working conditions, workers with the Sunrise Movement saw organizing as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with management while creating a more accessible environment for their growing team. Sunrise workers will join a number of nonprofit workers as members of CWA Local 1180, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Open Society Foundations, Century Foundation, and StoryCorps.
“We’re incredibly proud that our employees exercised their right to form a union, and we look forward to a productive bargaining relationship with our staff that furthers our mission to organize for a world where everyone has the right to meaningful, safe, and dignified jobs,” said Varshini Prakash, Sunrise Movement Executive Director. “Sunrise Movement unequivocally supports, and fights for, the right of any and all workers to unionize, including and especially at Sunrise. When we talk about creating millions of good jobs through a Green New Deal, we mean jobs where people get paid well, with the protections they deserve and that the labor movement fought for. We are confident that this new union will make our movement even stronger and more capable of fighting to expand the rights of working people everywhere.”
Sunrise is the latest nonprofit to organize, with the industry largely non-union. While there are no official federal statistics on the number of unions in the nonprofit industry, recent census data shows that the percentage of union members in this space has remained around 1% to 3% over the past decade. Sunrise’s young, diverse workforce reflects the growing trend for nonprofits and youth-led organizations to support union organizing and ensure a voice for all workers on the job.
“We’re excited for Sunrise Movement staff to join Local 1180 and the thousands of nonprofit workers CWA represents across the country,” said Gloria Middleton, President of CWA Local 1180. “Sunrise workers’ decision to organize speaks to the real impact unions have on strengthening the workforce at its core and creating a more equitable environment for workers. We look forward to working with Sunrise to continue to promote good jobs and fair contracts for all hard working Americans”
This post was originally published on Radio Free.