Members of the Mississippi branch of the ACLU and other protest the proposed Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. Credit: Mississippi Today

Staff members of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and other Southern states are unionizing. 

Workers of the nonprofit in Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky joined under the name ACLU Southern Affiliates United and are requesting joint union recognition from their employer, according to a Tuesday news release. 

The staff are looking to bargain jointly and urge leadership from each affiliate to commit to setting new standards for the Southern affiliates by negotiating a common agreement across the organizations. 

McKenna Raney-Gray, staff attorney for the LGBTQ Justice Project at the ACLU of Mississippi, said she wants to unionize to create more stability. 

“I am not interested in doing this because this is the worst job I’ve ever had. I am interested in doing this because it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” she said in an interview before the announcement. “If people have a say in what they’re working conditions are, they’re more likely to put down roots and stay.”

The workers organized with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which represents news, information and nonprofit employees, and is a local chapter of The NewsGuild. 

The announcement comes a week after staff from the ACLU of D.C. requested union recognition with the news guild. 

Other Southern affiliates including Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia have formed unions, and in recent years, ACLU national staff and other affiliates have organized, according to the news release. 

Jaclyn Maffetore, member of the ACLU-NC union, said organizing has helped establish policies that make work sustainable and align with their values, which helps support staff 

as they work to protect and advance civil rights. 

Yvonne Slosarski, a member of ACLU-D.C. Staff United, said they are excited to join the growing labor movement with the Southern affiliate staff. 

“Unions are a great way for ACLU staff and management to embody our commitment to civil rights and liberties by ensuring that the workers who are most impacted by the organizations’ policies can shape our working conditions,” she said in a statement. 

Reporter Molly Minta contributed reporting.

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Mina, a California native, covers the criminal justice system. Before joining Mississippi Today, she was a reporter for the Clarion Ledger and newspapers in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and USA Today.