Planned Parenthood has sought out an unlikely ally to combat its staff unionizing efforts: President Trump’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
As The Intercept reported, staff members from 14 chapters of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in coordination with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), organized their workplaces this past December. A representative of the 153 employees told Law & Crime they work exceedingly long hours with not enough compensation, especially considering the “intense and emotional work” they’re involved in.
While there are other unionized chapters, Planned Parenthood leadership did not support this latest round of efforts, arguing that the union ought to include all the clinics in the regional area, which spans three states. The non-profit organization approached the Trump administration to challenge the decision, despite the president’s ongoing mission to defund Planned Parenthood operations.
In April, Planned Parenthood leadership won their case with Trump labor board appointees siding with their argument. Former Obama appointee Lauren McFerran, however, voted in favor of the workers, noting the difficulty in unionizing across state borders.
“That unit consists of a reasonably, if not perfectly, distinct grouping of employees and is one that affords the included employees a meaningful opportunity for collective bargaining,” McFerran noted in her dissent. “By contrast, the Employer’s sole proposed unit here was employer-wide and included its Las Vegas, Nevada facilities, which are over 700 miles distant from the Denver metropolitan area that is at the core of the directed unit. In many, if not most, instances, such daunting geographic barriers could be prohibitive to employees’ right to choose and engage in collective bargaining.”
In response to an inquiry from Fast Company, Whitney Phillips, a spokesperson for the leadership of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, provided the following statement:
“Over the past year, SEIU Local 105 worked to organize only 14 of our 24 health centers (14 of 18 in Colorado, 0 of 4 in New Mexico, and 0 of 2 in Southern Nevada). During this time, we communicated repeatedly our belief that all workers should have their voices heard, urging SEIU to include all health center staff in any proposed bargaining unit. … PPRM respects the long history of our partnership with unions and believes in the important contributions labor makes in our communities. We urge SEIU to allow all our employees the opportunity to make this important decision for themselves.”
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Critics have expressed skepticism over Planned Parenthood’s argument that the union must include more states, believing it an excuse to avoid the union’s demands. The Rocky Mountains Union Bargaining Team, which represents the workers, claims it met nothing but resistance from higher-ups.
“Every step of the way, PPRM leadership has opposed us in our efforts to form a union,” the group wrote in a Facebook post. “First, leadership rejected our efforts to set-up a union vote, then, they organized against us as we successfully organized the votes we needed to form a union…. PPRM leadership continues to make technical arguments about our union that frankly have nothing to do with the issues that we’ve raised as employees.”
Social media has been less than kind: supporters of the progressive women’s health organization have called the opposition efforts “abysmal,” “inexcusable,” and well, “gross.” One simply tweeted, “this is so late-stage capitalism.”
As of now, reports The Intercept, an appeal will move to the full five-member NLRB labor board. The Rocky Mountains Union Bargaining Team requests their employer retract their NLRB challenge and simply work through their demands one-on-one instead.
“Health center staff are the face, eyes, ears and hands of what happens within PPRM clinics,” the group said on Facebook. “We voted for a union, and we are asking for a voice.”