To President Chin and members of the Sierra Club Board,

I am writing in my role as President of the Progressive Workers Union and on behalf of our Sierra Club National and Chapter Units to share our analysis of the impacts of this spring’s restructure and layoffs to our membership, and to express our significant concerns that this restructure had inequitable outcomes.

The restructure and associated layoff program was framed as a response to a budget crisis, yet the cumulative salaries of the top ten earners at the Sierra Club, $3,236,620 as of April 30, 2023, nearly offset the projected total savings from PWU layoffs, $3,599,641. Despite the union encouraging the Sierra Club Board and leadership since 2020 to prioritize reductions to inflated executive salaries and excessive overhead expenses, our BIPOC members were disproportionately impacted by layoffs in a program that will have lasting impacts on the internal equity and broader efficacy of the Sierra Club.

Based on a PWU analysis of members impacted by the restructuring, we saw disproportionate impacts to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) staff. These workers accounted for 48.5% of laid-off represented staff while Sierra Club’s staff is 27.81% BIPOC, according to a 2022 report from Green 2.0. We do not present this information to accuse Sierra Club management of targeting these groups, but rather to illustrate the effects of layoffs that run counter to the Sierra Club’s and the Union’s shared goals and vision.

Our analysis of the full impact of the restructure is incomplete due to a lack of key data regarding the final number of layoffs, the racial and gender identities of all impacted staff, and other information that has not been provided to our union (see the “Remaining Questions” section of the analysis below). Throughout this process, Sierra Club leadership has declined to provide the union with key data regarding the restructuring, specifically about impacts to non-represented, largely managerial staff, a classification with significant influence on the culture and direction of the organization, and one that we know was largely impacted by the restructure and associated layoffs. Without this data, it will be impossible for us to get a full understanding of the impacts that the restructure had on the diversity of our organization and the disparate effects that it had on BIPOC staff members.

The restructure and the associated layoffs are still having profoundly negative effects on our members and their managers, and the organization as a whole. There has been a notable increase in contract violations, including ongoing denials of promotions and changes to job descriptions that significantly increase responsibility and workload. Declines in People Department (Human Resources) staffing have made resolving these issues extremely difficult and many members have lost hope about promised promotions or advancement. It is the Union’s opinion that more collaboration with union leadership could have prevented an otherwise chaotic and ineffective restructure and layoff process and this gives us caution as we prepare for much-delayed contract bargaining later this year.

PWU Leadership acknowledges the challenges faced by Sierra Club due to projected budget deficits and the need to address those deficits. We strive to be a partner with Sierra Club in creating and maintaining a sustainable and healthy workplace for our members and hope that the data provided here will give the Board a better understanding of the significant impacts that restructuring has had on Sierra Club’s years-long work to diversify and ensure racial and gender equity. Additionally, we hope that this glimpse of the consequences of decisions made since the budget crisis announcement instigates a deeper investigation into the equity impacts of the restructuring and associated actions, specifically by beginning with eliminating the equity department, which was largely BIPOC staff. We also offer this as an invitation to change course and re-engage with staff to seek a more representative understanding of your legal obligations to the organization and our members that is based in collaboration and respect.

We make these asks in the hopes that we can move forward as one Sierra Club, centering equity and compassion, and upholding the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
PWU President CJ Garcia-Linz on behalf of the Sierra Club Chapter and National Units

Full PWU Analysis of Layoffs (PDF)