Planned Parenthood workers in 5 Midwestern states seek to unionize

DES MOINES, Iowa – About 400 workers at Planned Parenthood offices in five states said Thursday they plan to unionize as their employer faces potential loss of business in states where abortions could become illegal if the state Supreme Court U.S. reverses landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade.

Planned Parenthood North Central States workers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota said they signed cards showing majority support for unionization, and on Thursday they formally filed a demand union election with the National Labor Relations Board, said Ashley Schmidt, a training and development specialist for Nebraska and western Iowa.

They plan to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that has about 1 million members in 29 states, including doctors, nurses and lab technicians. SEIU locals represent Planned Parenthood workers in other regions, including those serving Oregon and Washington, New York and Washington, D.C.

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Union organizing in various fields has gained momentum recently after a decade of declining union membership in the United States. The Biden administration has backed efforts to expand unions, and organizers have worked to create unions at companies including Amazon, Starbucks, outdoor retailer. REI and Alphabet, parent company of Google.

Planned Parenthood workers seeking union membership in the Midwest include nurses, education outreach workers, community organizers and other nonmanagement employees at 28 clinics in the five states. They provide services such as reproductive care, cancer screening and abortions.

In a call with reporters on Thursday, employees discussed concerns about unequal pay for similar positions in different locations, lower pay than other health care providers, high turnover due to burnout and burnout, and the feeling that management does not always listen to workers’ concerns.

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“Unfortunately, I have seen many of these people move on after their ideas and concerns have not been heard by the leadership team for too long. Across our branch, clinical staff and administrative is overworked, underpaid and undervalued,” said Sadie Brewer, a registered nurse who provides abortion services at a clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Molly Gage, vice president of human resources for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the organization prioritizes autonomy and choice in people’s personal lives and respects that same right for workers.

“We support our employees, and it is up to them to decide if and how they want to be represented by a union. We look forward to continuing the conversation with staff about how best to serve patients throughout this pivotal moment for abortion access,” Gage said in a statement.

Workers began discussing unionization last year, before a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion surfaced saying the court could allow states to ban or strictly limit the availability of abortion said April Clark, a registered nurse and senior training specialist at a clinic in eastern Iowa.

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Clark said the potential for abortion law changes makes union membership more important for workers.

“We know that means we’re going to face stress not only for patients but also for staff in the months to come if Roe is knocked down,” she said.

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