In Kansas, “ACLU” apparently stands for “Another Corporate Lackey Unmasked.”

. . . and your little dog too!


In June the United Media Guild was contacted by employees at the ACLU of Kansas about forming a union. ACLU management, led by a former Google executive, Nadine Johnson, fought that process and hired the notorious union busing firm of Ogletree Deakins (they are the villains in the movie “Norma Rae”).  Ogletree Deakins busts unions all around the U.S. as well as South America and Asia.

Because of the public outcry (thank you, everyone!), the ACLU fired that firm and agreed to a card check process which took place on July 20 when the bargaining unit voted unanimously to join the United Media Guild.

At that point, we were hopeful that better days were ahead but such has not been the case. To be blunt, the ACLU may have changed attorneys but they have not changed tactics.

On August 10, they issued a written final warning to one of our stewards. They told her that, unless things changed dramatically, she could be fired anytime within the next 90 days.

I wrote to their new attorney stating that, since there was now a union in the workplace, any significant changes to the terms and conditions of employment had to be bargained with the Guild. He/they refused, citing a legal decision which was only half right, asserting that they “didn’t have to bargain over discipline” because of a new ruling by the Trump NLRB (How about that – the ACLU siding with a Trump Board?) This brings us to another similar tactic used by Ogletree Deakins – the ACLU seems to be trying to get us to quit by burying us with legal work and the high costs that accompany it. I pushed back on what that ruling actually said and then he pivoted to, “Well, it’s not discipline.” I asked what the hell it was then and he told me it was a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). I said that was the first PIP I ever came across that threatens someone like that. PIPs normally suggest new habits to try to learn to improve one’s performance. He wouldn’t budge and so I filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board (Yep, I filed a ULP against the ACLU).

After that, they announced a re-organization (Hello? What is at about not being able to make any changes to the “terms and conditions of employment” that you don’t understand?)

And then. . . when the duly elected Unit Chair was discussing her “likes and dislikes” and “where you hope to be in five years” with her new boss of her new department, she said something that the ACLU of Kansas – that supposed bastion of free speech – has chosen to deliberately misunderstand and misrepresent and they have placed her on leave pending an investigation (these people are ruthless).

What Melissa Stiehler said when asked about what she disliked about her job, she said that her former boss “was more concerned with looking good than doing good” and she didn’t want to make the numbers look better than they were (background: Nadine Johnson, the executive director, has no idea of what is or makes for a successful campaign and Melissa’s former boss would take advantage of that). Melissa cited a recent phone bank where her former boss angered the ACLU’s coalition partners and it was considered by everyone to be a bust. Yet her boss spun it to Nadine Johnson by saying, “We made over 100 phone calls to the Secretary of State’s office!” Melissa said that may sound impressive but, in fact, it wasn’t.

The ACLU has now decided that our Unit Chair, in saying that she didn’t want to make the numbers look better than they were, was admitting to some sort of past financial or accounting malfeasance and the ACLU has placed her on leave. They seized her laptop, office keys and cell phone. They changed the locks. They have retained a private investigator and instructed Melissa to not make any public comments or contact anyone in the organization. This is, quite simply, retaliation for the great job she did in organizing the unit and it’s aimed squarely at intimidating her and her coworkers. The ACLU is revealing itself to be a vile and vindictive employer that hates working people and their statutorily protected rights (Can you say, “hypocrisy?”).

Make no mistake, our Unit Chair did nothing wrong, our sisters and brothers in the great state of Kansas will NOT back down and neither will their union.


to follow our newest group, ACLU KS United on twitter:

to email ACLU of Kansas director, Nadine Johnson:

to email ACLU National Director, Anthony Romero