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A difficult but necessary time at TDC: The truth about our reorganization

Fighting for a new systemic vision


Contact: Isaiah J. Poole, Director of Communications (

This has been a difficult time for all of us at TDC. As a think-do tank working to build a better economy and world, with a keen eye for the shortcomings of the present one, we fully understand the particularly harsh realities of life in the midst of a global pandemic. It is dispiriting for us to face accusations of heartlessly cutting staff in this difficult time, of leaving them without a paycheck, of union-busting. But what hurts us the most is that several of our friends and colleagues now find themselves in the difficult position of having to figure out new jobs and how to pay their rent in the future.

This is a consequence of changes at TDC that have been a long time coming. We are in the midst of a major reorganization to increase our impact and effectiveness and reorient our work in more radical directions that more fully reflect our values and mission. In that process we have been doing our utmost to arrive at an agreement with our union as to the terms of a fair and generous severance package for the small handful of workers who are being impacted.

We have thought long and hard about these changes. Some of our programs have not been entirely successful, or are not the highest and best use of time and resources, and will be wound down; others that are successful but point in a different direction will be spun off as separate sister organizations, with our blessing and support. We will build new programs, and embark on new work and new ways of doing old work. This cannot be done without changes to our staffing.

Every single person at TDC has been a valued member of our team, and these changes are not about individual performance but about organizational shifts we are making that require the phase-out of work that no longer aligns with our strategy and future goals. The world is changing, and we are changing with it. In so doing, we have tried really hard to get this right and looked carefully at the capacities and skills we need as part of becoming a more focused operation. We have tried to offer as much support as we can to the staff that we reluctantly decided will be laid off in this difficult transition. We knew it would be painful.

Two of our departing staff members were managers, who have already left our organization with generous severance packages. Five of them, to take effect later this year, are members of our bargaining unit, with a sixth scheduled for the end of 2021. All of these employees will be given generous severance packages, and TDC is currently in negotiations with the TDC Workers’ Union over the terms of these packages.

Normally, layoffs would automatically trigger severance on the basis of the formula we agreed to in the labor contract—one which was lauded by the union a year ago. However, these are not normal times, and TDC began negotiations with the union by saying up front that we would provide a generous severance above and beyond our contractual obligations. Asked to make an offer, we have put three months’ severance on the table, which for most employees amounts to six times that required by our contract. We have also offered to provide reimbursement for health insurance coverage, assistance with job-seeking, stipends for professional development training, and other benefits to ease and facilitate this difficult transition for our departing staff members.

Let us be transparent about what we are putting on the table. Under what we have offered, staff members would receive severance payments ranging from $17,735 to $23,642, based on their salary rather than how long they have been with the organization (which in most cases is less than two years). Unfortunately, we are unable to meet the union’s counter-demand for nine months’ severance—which in one person’s case would exceed $70,000 after only 11 months of employment with us, which is simply unrealistic.

Nevertheless, we are continuing to bargain in good faith over the impact of these layoffs.

No small nonprofit like ours can offer severance terms like these demanded by the union, which are also far more than we can justify as responsible stewards of our resources. We hope the union returns to the bargaining table soon with a willingness to reach agreement on a fair severance package.

This is not about union-busting. Everyone at TDC supports unions, and there will continue to be a TDC union. We engaged in voluntary recognition of the union and have retained as our counsel one of the most pro-labor law firms in Washington, DC. We have committed from the start that we will recognize the union in the spinoff organization we will be creating, and we are committed to having the union be an integral part of the reorganized TDC.

This reorganization is both necessary and right for TDC. It has not been undertaken lightly. We are attempting to accomplish it with as much consideration and compassion as we can muster in very challenging circumstances. Not everyone will agree with what we are doing, and that is understandable. But we are acting in good faith and in the best interests of our organization in pursuit of our mission. This is a difficult time and a difficult process. We are confident that we will emerge stronger and better for it, and will be better able to pursue our vital work of fundamental transformative political-economic change in the world.

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