Southern Poverty Law Center lays off employees amid restructuring

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal and advocacy group, is laying off more than 60 employees, the union representing workers said Thursday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center did not confirm the number but issued a statement saying the organization “is undergoing an organizational restructuring” that resulted in staff reductions.

The layoffs follow several year of turmoil at the organization, including the dismissal of its founder in 2019, a leadership change and the bringing in of an outside group to review workplace practices.

The SPLC Union issued a statement sharply criticizing the decision to reduce staff.

“Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center — an organization with nearly a billion dollars in reserves, given an F rating by CharityWatch for ‘hoarding’ donations — gutted its staff by a quarter,” the SPLC Union said in the statement.

“SPLC’s decision has a catastrophic impact on the organization’s work in support of immigrants seeking justice and its mission to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements and advance human rights through support of educators,” the union statement added.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said the reductions were “a difficult but necessary decision to focus and align our work with our programmatic priorities and goals.” The SPLC said it is consolidating certain programs and activities, and eliminating others which resulted in staff reductions.

“Our mission at the SPLC is clear: to serve as a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond. In partnership with communities, we are working tirelessly to dismantle white supremacy and advance the human rights of all people — especially Black and Brown communities,” the organization added.

The Montgomery, Alabama-based law center was founded in 1971 as a watchdog for minorities and the underprivileged. A decade later, the organization won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was killed by KKK members in Mobile. Over the years, the organization has advocated for expanding voting access, protections for immigrants and equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community. It has also maintained a list of extremist organizations.

The organization has sometimes been criticized for its aggressive fundraising tactics. In 2022, the organization reported having $711 million in assets and receiving more than $100 million in donations each year since 2019.

Employees of Southern Poverty Law Center voted to unionize in 2019. The employees voted to join the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

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