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Opinion: SEACC United clears the air on unionization

The results are in: SEACC staff has unionized and awaits recognition by leadership.

  • By Shannon Donahue and Lauren Cusimano
  • Monday, January 2, 2023 1:49pm
  • Opinion

On Dec. 9, 2022, non-management employees of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council unionized as SEACC United, joining the Communications Workers of America, District 7, an AFL-CIO affiliate. With a public supermajority of all eligible — permanent, non-management — employees, the union was established in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act.

SEACC United went public Dec. 12 with a request to SEACC leadership for voluntary recognition. We informed leadership that if we were not recognized by Dec. 16, we would file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for an election to force recognition. Dec. 16 ended without recognition or a good-faith request for more time. We filed our petition the following Monday, Dec. 19, and informed leadership that we will gladly withdraw it upon recognition of our democratically established union.

As we explain in our vision statement, we are organizing because we know what SEACC could be — a just, sustainable, effective force in Southeast Alaska to both us as employees and our community. Our goal is to sustain SEACC as a healthy workplace that values justice and dignity for all staff in order to be fully effective in our work. If we were not committed to the organization and the important work we do, we would not bother to unionize. Unionizing requires tremendous thought, time, communication, effort and a good measure of courage.

We love SEACC. SEACC United shares the organization’s current mission, which states, “To protect the special places of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, promote conservation, and advocate for sustainability in human use of natural resources. Inspired by the land, wildlife, cultures, and communities of Southeast Alaska, SEACC strives to ensure this interconnected whole exists for future generations.”

Unions offer employees agency and voice in their working conditions. Unions offer safeguards and protections that can be difficult to establish in a hierarchical organization, even among the most well-intentioned leadership teams. Unions build strong teams and can improve relationships between rank-and-file employees and executive and management staff so that organizations can focus more keenly and efficiently on their mission-driven work.

In unionizing, SEACC United offers SEACC leadership an opportunity to demonstrate progressive values and care for its staff. We offer SEACC the opportunity to lead the way in setting a high bar for just, equitable working conditions as one of Alaska’s first non-profit advocacy groups — if not the first — to unionize. In unionizing, we seek a

voice, dignity, and an active role in establishing our working conditions. We aim to build a stronger, healthier SEACC for all employees, current and future, and for the communities we serve.

SEACC leadership has publicly stated that it supports our right to unionize, and will stand by the results. The results are in. SEACC staff has unionized. The union was established legally and fairly, and all eligible employees have the opportunity to join. The supermajority is verified and public. The only thing missing is recognition by SEACC.

SEACC leadership has a choice: recognize SEACC United voluntarily, or challenge us through the NLRB process. We are disappointed that leadership has chosen to use organizational resources to hire Littler-Mendelson — the notorious global union-busting law firm corporations, including Starbucks, use to combat union organizing — to represent management. From the Littler-Mendelson website: “Our deep experience in representing management serves as a strong counterpoint to the world’s most powerful labor organizations. We guide companies in developing and initiating strategies that lawfully avoid unions…”

There is still time for SEACC leadership to change course and recognize our legally established union voluntarily, saving the time, money, and energy that are unfortunately going into an unnecessary and redundant NLRB process that only stands to drag out the inevitable recognition of our union, and at considerable self-inflicted expense to the organization.

Regardless of what leadership decides, SEACC United stands union strong, committed to each other, to SEACC, and to the communities and environment of Southeast Alaska. We thank all of our colleagues, community members, union siblinghood, and past SEACC employees who have publicly voiced their support for SEACC United.

Interested readers can keep up with our union on Twitter and Instagram at @seaccunited and on Mastodon at @SEACC_United@mastodon.akhepcat.com.

• Shannon Donahue, of Haines, and Lauren Cusimano, of Juneau, are two of the founding members of SEACC United. SEACC United, the democratically established employees’ union of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, affiliated with the Communication Workers of America, District 7, AFL-CIO, consists of Lauren Cusimano, Shannon Donahue, Heather Evoy and Mel Izard.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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