Did you know that the clerical and other support staff for the American Civil Liberties Union is, well, unionized? Well, they are and that is causing ACLU executive director Anthony Romero some serious heartburn.

Romero told the Village Voice in a July 25 interview that the workers’ union, United Auto Workers Local 2110, was engaging in a “subtle form of extortion” by criticizing the ACLU to the press.

“[The union] is using the press to embarrass us and back us into a corner to make concessions that are not in keeping with the market and not in keeping with other employers,” Romero said. He was responding to a Village Voice piece the previous day titled: “The ACLU Is Going After Its Own Union Workers’ Contracts.”

This situation is more than a little ironic, given that the ACLU is a well-known  – perhaps the best-known — advocate of free speech and a free press. Somewhat less well-known is that it also an advocate of collective bargaining rights.

In the July 24  piece, the Voice reported that the civil rights group was asking for “unprecedented” givebacks from its legal assistants, receptionists, bookkeepers, accounting assistants and mail clerks.

“We came in with pretty modest proposals, but management came in with a mountain of givebacks,” Local 2110 secretary-treasurer Eden Schulz told the Voice.

She said that the civil rights group also wants to “defang” a contract provision that requires an arbitration hearing before a worker can be fired.

Contract negotiations had been underway since March without resolution, prompting the staff to take to the picket lines.

To rub in the irony, the Voice noted: “All this while executives at the company got a combined $100,000 pay raise in 2012, enough to support an 8 percent bump in salaries for all union worker salaries.”

Romero told the Voice Thursday that they hadn’t gotten the whole story. The ACLU is currently running an $8 million deficit and the union members are the only ones who don’t pay into the health care fund. The givebacks management wants are $20 for individuals and $40 for families, each monthly, to offset the healthcare costs.