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BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA — Workers at the regional environmental organization Appalachian Voices voted unanimously to ratify a collective bargaining agreement after two years of negotiations in a significant win for the non-profit labor movement. The Appalachian Voices Union is now officially a unionized shop with the Progressive Workers Union (PWU), which also represents workers at the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists,, and Greenpeace USA. Greenpeace USA and workers recently ratified their own first contracts.

Appalachian Voices’ contract is the conclusion of a collaborative, interest-based bargaining process between management and the union that resulted in substantial wage increases, especially for Appalachian Voices’ lowest-paid employees, significant increases in time off, an improved overtime policy, benefit improvements and a revamped travel reimbursement policy.

“The ratification of this contract demonstrates the dedication of Appalachian Voices’ employees and management to the values we fight for in our work, especially our commitment to workers’ health and fair compensation,” said Emma Kelly, member of the labor bargaining team. “The progress made throughout bargaining will allow Appalachian Voices employees to continue to strive for a strong, equitable, and environmentally just Appalachia without sacrificing their own wellbeing.”

The contract also includes significant protections for workers against discrimination and legal commitments to workers regarding the organization’s diversity goals and practices. It guarantees cost of living adjustments to workers moving forward, including an enhanced adjustment for employees earning below $70,000 a year.

“This contract represents a significant step forward for Appalachian Voices, and for the non-profit union movement as a whole,” said CJ Garcia-Linz, President of Progressive Workers Union. “With the continued success that our union has had in securing fair contracts for our members, we are looking forward to organizing externally and ensuring that the entire sector is unionized.”

The vote comes just weeks after Greenpeace USA workers ratified their first contract, and a few months after workers ratified theirs. PWU’s Union of Concerned Scientists United unit is still in protracted negotiations for their first contract, years after first voting to form their unions and sitting down at the bargaining table, while the Sierra Club national unit is renegotiating their contract from 2018. Recently, management at the Sierra Club denied the unit’s proposal to extend their existing contract through negotiations, allowing it to expire on January 1, 2024.

Find Appalachian Voices’ ratified bargaining agreement here.


Founded in 1992, the Progressive Workers’ Union (PWU) represents over 350 workers across the United States and in Puerto Rico.