On August 21, 2020 Toni Van Pelt announced her resignation and Christian Nunes assumed the role as President of the National Organization for Women.
In April 2020, two thirds of the NOW State Presidents, from every region of the country, called to remove Toni Van Pelt from her role as President and for the Board to begin a strategic examination of the structural racism within NOW. This is about more than one person who has clearly demonstrated poor decision-making and communication skills which have put our organization at risk. This is about walking our talk to stand for racial justice and to combat all injustices in every level of our organization. Anti-racism is a core issue and foundation of NOW and we must fight to create an inclusive organization.
We know this behavior is not new:
There is a current lawsuit against Toni by her former Vice President, Gilda Yazzie, a Native American woman. We also have a letter signed by 15 former National Action Center Staff members that was sent to the board in 2018 to call out the current sitting president's problematic and racist behavior. The letter from the NAC Staff members referenced that Toni's erratic and racist behavior lost not only well-respected staff members but also severed partnerships with external partners and organizations. We were shocked and disappointed to learn that the Board hired an investigator who did not conduct a thorough investigation and did not provide a written report of their investigation. The staff who wrote the letter were not contacted or interviewed and the investigator did not speak with former Vice President Gilda Yazzie.
And it’s only gotten worse:
Four National Action Center staff have resigned since January and all four confirmed to the state presidents that racial issues were one of the many reasons they left the organization.
In June the NOW board allowed the Communications Manager, Kim Sontag to maintain her position after she posted racist accusations against a black man and his location on Facebook. Sontag has not faced any repercussions although multiple State Presidents have inquired as to any action taken.
In July, longtime NOW leader and current board member BJ Star changed her candidacy nomination to identify as Asian American in order to boost her election prospects. Notably, Star presents as White, for generations her family has lived as White Americans and the National NOW election committee's decision to uphold this change is a colossal embarrassment, to say the least.