Major Environmental Group Is at War with Itself over Race, ‘Equity’

by Lillian Tweten


The Sierra Club has experienced major infighting recently after major layoffs and changes left minority staffers feeling snubbed, The Washington Post reported.

Ben Jealous, the executive director of the Sierra Club since November 2022, let go more than two dozen workers, many of whom were people of color, in April and May of 2023 as part of a “reconstruction” effort and relabeled the nonprofit’s “People, Culture, and Equity Department” to just be the “People Department,” according to the Post. Employees at the Sierra Club protested these changes and wrote a letter on Thursday through the Progressive Workers Union, the union for the nonprofit, alleging that the organization’s moves were contrary to its stated goal of diversity.

“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,” the Progressive Workers Union wrote, according to the Post.

The union argued that layoffs had set back the organization’s attempts to combat environmental impacts on minority communities, the Post reported. They claimed that the Sierra Club had lost “nontransferable relationships and institutional knowledge” by laying off workers represented by the union.

The Sierra Club reduced its workforce from 800 to 400 employees earlier this year, losing workers because of layoffs and voluntary buy-outs.

Jealous defended his actions and said that the restructuring efforts were part of an “economic necessity” because of the organization’s $40 million deficit, the Post reported. The Sierra Club has a projected savings of $3,599,641 from laying off workers, but Jealous has spent an additional $3,236,620 on salaries for ten executive positions at the nonprofit.

Aida Davis, the director of the club’s People Department and one of the newly-hired executives, alleged that the Club’s actions to improve racial equity and environmental justice had fallen flat, according to the Post. She also alleged that she had experienced disrespectful and harmful treatment from her coworkers at the Club because of her gender and race.

“I have never felt more undermined, gaslit and disrespected, and my dignity diminished, than I have in this role,” Davis told the Post.

Jealous and the Sierra Club did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Lillian Tweten is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Sierra Club Supporters” by Charlie Kaijo. CC BY 2.0.





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