U.S. PIRG, Environment America workers form union

Overwhelming majority of non-management staff at The Public Interest Network establish The Public Interest Union

Thursday, December 16, 2021


Zachary Barber, Public Interest Network worker, (412) 973-5023, barberza@gmail.com

Kelly Russo, OPEIU Local 2, krusso@opeiu-local2.org

Grace Reckers, OPEIU Int’l, greckers@opeiu.org

DENVER, COLORADO – An overwhelming majority of non-management staff at The Public Interest Network (TPIN) announced the formation of The Public Interest Union and requested voluntary recognition from management. The union will be represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Local 2. The Public Interest Network (TPIN) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a clean environment, safe marketplace, and a healthy democracy nationwide through around a dozen public-facing brands, including U.S. PIRG, Environment America, the Fund for the Public Interest, Green Corps, Community Action Works, and others.

“My colleagues and I work every day to build people-power to tackle some of society’s biggest problems. Our union is the exciting next step in that decades-long history.” said Zachary Barber, a Pennsylvania-based Clean Air Advocate with TPIN. “Doing this critical work has been the honor of a lifetime, but it shouldn’t be a privilege. That’s why I’m proud to take this step which will ultimately help extend this opportunity to even more talented and passionate organizers.”

The Public Interest Union will cover more than 200 eligible staff nationwide and has already received support from a super-majority of the unit. The union is seeking to improve recruitment and retention of talented and passionate organizers by ensuring fair pay and taking steps to promote a more diverse workplace.

“Students first formed The Public Interest Network in 1971 by establishing a fee on themselves to create an organization to pool their power and fight for the public interest,” said Marissa Zampino, a campus organizer with TPIN. “Our union is built in that same spirit, and continues our history of making positive social change.”

Over the last 50 years, TPIN has trained thousands of organizers including former President Barack Obama and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The organization has an annual budget of approximately $30 million and has led the fight for finance reform, renewable energy and a zero-waste society, from playing a key role in the formation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, to winning some of the first bills for 100% renewable energy, to passing the original bottle bill in Massachusetts.

“I took this job because I care deeply about building people-power and creating lasting social change,” said Rishi Shah, a democracy advocate in Maryland with TPIN. “Advocacy is more than just a job, but this is still how I make ends meet. I’ll be a better advocate if I’m not worried about whether or not I’ll make rent each month.”

This is not the first time TPIN employees have made attempts to unionize. However, while previous efforts came from individual offices and departments, this is the first one to include all non-management staff across more than 20 states.

"We can build an organization that combines our impactful campaigns with caring for ourselves and each other,” said Mireille Bejjani, an Energy Justice Director based in the Northeast with TPIN. “Crafting an internal culture that prioritizes diverse perspectives, facilitates proactive communication, and invites open decision-making will strengthen our external work in communities across the country. I'm excited to make that a reality through this effort with my colleagues."



The Public Interest Union represents those who carry the clipboards, the boxes of petition signatures and the social-change banner for The Public Interest Network. We are committed to building our workplace into the strongest and most-effective public advocate it can be. For more, visit twitter.com/TPINunion.


OPEIU Local 2 represents 8,000 working people in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We empower workers to make change in their workplaces and in their communities. As the founder of the Nonprofit Employees United initiative, OPEIU also supports thousands of non-profit workers ​who have formed unions across the country. Members come from various backgrounds including museums, higher education, legal aid, hospitals, civil rights, social services, reproductive health, and more. We are constantly working to defend and advocate for not only our members' rights, but for the rights of all working people as well.