Workers at Highlanders Research and Education Center Organize
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Author: Highlanders Workers United
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Highlanders Workers United

 A majority of the staff at the historic Highlander Research and Education Center based in New Market, TN have formed a union with Workers United Southern Region, SEIU. Our Union wrote to Highlander leadership in late February to let them know of our desire to have our Union recognized through a card check process conducted by a neutral third party. Highlander has agreed and we have selected the person, a former Highlander director, as the neutral. We are now working out logistics and hope to have the process completed shortly.

As part of the letter to the Highlander Center leadership requesting recognition of the union, the staff stated:

"We see this as an opportunity and an invitation for Highlander to embody, practice, and model the values of transformative justice, participatory democracy, economic justice, and workers’ rights in our own workplace that we have advanced and built with movement for 90 years. The current work environment is not conducive to fulfilling our mission, supporting staff health and wellbeing, or embodying our values. We look forward to taking this important step to protect our workers’ rights, well-being, and job security as we engage in principled struggle to build a workplace together that is a direct reflection of the world that we say we are building and know is possible. We believe in the mission of the Highlander Research and Education Center. This staff is ready to better live into the values and practices we tell the world we hold. We know they will guide us toward healthier, more whole and transformative ways of being together, while deepening our practice and skills in the vital work of movement support and accompaniment."

The Highlander Center staff hope to join other Workers United non-profit staff unions like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Working Families Party, Policy Matters, Ohio Environmental Council, and others.

In Solidarity,

Mia S. Willis
Rev. Isaac Collins
Nzinga Amani
Kayla Roley
April Taylor
David Ferris
Aria Taibi
Elizabeth Wright
Signed on behalf of Highlander Workers United

The Highlander Research and Education Center is a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. Highlander works with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Since 1932, Highlander has centered the experiences of directly-impacted people in our region, knowing that together, we have the solutions to address the challenges we face in our communities and to build more just, equitable, and sustainable systems and structures. Highlander workshops and programming bring people together across issues, identity, and geography to share and build skills, knowledge, and strategies for transformative social change.

The Southern Region has locals in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Southern Region represents over 15,000 private sector members and retirees. Our members work in airport cleaning, distribution centers, laundries, and food services. They manufacture car parts, carpets, parachutes and they work hard in trucking logistics, and custom shirt sewing. Our newest locals represent university adjunct faculty, graduate students, cafeteria workers, and campus janitors. Workers United Southern Region is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union which has 2 million union members nationwide.

For more information, please contact:
Highlander Workers United staff contacts
Nzinga Amani,
Elizabeth Wright,
Rev. Isaac Collins, 865-271-7522,
SEIU, Workers United Southern Region contact:
Chris Baumann,, 678-593-8656


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