The American Civil Liberties Union, which touts itself as a fierce defender of fair labor standards, is in a contractual dispute with an unforeseen group: its own workers.

Last month, demonstrators from the UAW Local 2110 AFL-CIO, the collective bargaining unit that represents the ACLU’s assistant legal staff, administrative assistants, and other support staff, rallied outside the ACLU’s national headquarters in New York City, protesting the nonprofit’s new contract for unionized staff and accusing the organization of violating its own employees’ rights.

As of Thursday morning, negotiations between the ACLU and the UAW over the contract are “ongoing,” both parties confirmed to

Among the contentious issues in the new contract are smaller wage increases and the demand that workers pay for their own health care benefits. Maida Rosenstein, president of UAW Local 2110, said in an email that the ACLU initially proposed certain restrictions that “undermined” the “just cause” provision in their contract – a term that protects workers against wrongful termination by their employers.

But, Rosenstein said, the ACLU withdrew that proposal after the latest demonstration by its unionized workers outside Manhattan headquarters, in which employees held signs that read "Practice What You Preach!" and "ACLU: Be Fair!"

Since its inception in 1920, the ACLU’s stated mission has been to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Stephen Smith, the ACLU’s associate director for strategic communications, told on Wednesday that negotiations are continuing, but he declined to elaborate on the issues being deliberated.

“As you may be aware, our negotiations with UAW Local 2110 are indeed ongoing,” Smith wrote in an email. “We’re not able to comment on the content of the negotiations at the moment but we’re looking forward to reaching an agreement soon.”

In a report published July 25 by, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, who is not directly involved in the deliberations, elaborated in detail on why management is demanding such concessions from its employees.

Romero reportedly said the maximum employee health care contribution would be $40 per month, and claimed salaries in the bargaining unit range from $40,546 to nearly $76,000 a year.

“I think every New Yorker would say that’s a fair wage,” he told the network. “We are not exploiting our staff. We pay them well. We are expecting a lot of them; we think the world of them.”

Smith said the ACLU, which claims to be nonpartisan, was able to speak then because it was “between negotiation periods.”

Because negotiations are now “behind closed doors” and “we’re back at the table with the union,” the ACLU is “not able to comment further,” Smith said by phone Thursday.