Southern Poverty Law Center lays off employees amid restructuring

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

The Southern Poverty Law Center did not confirm this number, but issued a statement saying the organization is “undergoing an organizational restructuring” that has led to staff reductions.

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The dismissals follow several years of unrest at the organization. including the resignation of the founder in 2019, a leadership change and the arrival of an external group to review workplace practices.

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

“Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center – an organization with nearly a billion dollars in reserves, which has been given an F rating by CharityWatch for ‘hoarding’ donations – cut its staff by a quarter,” the SPLC Union said in the declaration.

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

The Southern Poverty Law Center said the cuts were “a difficult but necessary decision to focus and align our work with our programmatic priorities and objectives.” The SPLC said it is consolidating certain programs and activities and eliminating others, which has led to 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 work tirelessly to dismantle white supremacy and advance the human rights of all people – especially Black and brown communities,” the organization added.

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

The organization has sometimes been criticized for its aggressive fundraising tactics. In 2022, the organization reported that it had $711 million in assets and had received more than $100 million in donations every year since 2019.

Southern Poverty Law Center staff voted to unite in 2019. The employees voted to join the Washington-Baltimore News Guild.

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