Abortion Workers Seek to Unionize as Roe Decision Nears

know about Abortion Workers Seek to Unionize as Roe Decision Nears

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A wave of unionization is sweeping the US abortion services industry, as burned-out employees prepare for a major rollback of reproductive rights.

The group Planned Parenthood North Central States United is trying to unionize more than 400 Planned Parenthood workers in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota to address issues like low wages. He is looking for an election this summer, for the union to be officially recognized. The organization is joined by clinic workers in Massachusetts trying to unionize right now, while employees of a major reproductive health care researcher are also looking to organize.

“There’s a general disillusionment with the organization,” Sage Shemroske, who uses the pronoun they and works at a clinic in Minneapolis, said of Planned Parenthood.

Shemroske, who registers patients and supports doctors at the front desk, complains about low wages ($18 an hour, down from $16 when they started) and excessive hours. Other network employees said in statements late last month that they see a strong division between frontline workers and leadership and said they are coping with burnout. Shemroske says they want to improve conditions to help retain workers amid the broader societal need to maintain access to reproductive health care.

‘I like my job’

“I like my job, that’s why I’m unionizing,” Shemroske said. “I feel very passionate about reproductive health and reproductive justice, being pro-abortion and pro-bodily autonomy. It’s almost a feeling of discomfort, of shame, when I get home and I know that this thing that matters so much to me is also what makes me stay up late or not be able to sleep well, because I’ve seen tomorrow’s schedule and I know it’s going to be overwhelming. ”.

Molly Gage, vice president of human resources for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the organization is “committed to creating an inclusive work environment that recognizes the individual and collective challenges employees face.”

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“We support employee decisions about whether to be represented by a union and want the voice of all union-eligible employees to be heard,” Gage said in an emailed statement responding to questions from Bloomberg News. “Elections are the essence of democracy. Our staff make our mission possible, and as we work together to empower our patients and achieve our mission, we will work to support the ongoing election process.”

Health workers have been under extreme stress due to the pandemic, but those providing abortion services are facing greater strain. A host of states have already passed local laws limiting abortion access, forcing some clinics to close and sending throngs of patients to facilities that have been able to stay open elsewhere.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. wade, 26 states are certain or probable ban or limit abortion, further jeopardizing access for 33 million women. That is creating further uncertainty in an industry facing a supplier shortage and putting additional pressure on those in states that are still offering care and dealing with an influx of patients.

Read more: Abortion haters spent the last decade passing hundreds of state laws

A survey 2020 of 300 reproductive health care providers, including abortion clinics, said two-thirds reported increased stress and one-third reported increased anxiety or depression related to providing care during the pandemic. That was before the latest wave of legislation restricting abortion in some areas. In September, Texas’ six-week abortion ban went into effect. That law, known as SB8, has forced 1,400 Texans out-of-state for abortion care on a monthly basis, according to a study by a group based at the University of Texas at Austin. It also inspired copycat legislation in other states.

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Massachusetts workers

Some Texans travel to the East Coast for abortions, and workers see them at places like the four centers represented by the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Facing growing demand and pressure, workers from the Massachusetts group are now seeking to form a union.

“What we are seeing, especially since SB8 passed in Texas, is that there is an endless need for care,” said Caroline Propersi-Grossman, an organizer with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, who is working with Massachusetts employees on her union effort. . “What they want to make sure is that they have enough time to attend to and address all of the patient’s concerns at each visit.”

Workers want to see better infrastructure and enough staff, and they want access to a union training fund for continuing education, Propersi-Grossman said.

The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts United, the group seeking to unionize about 150 workers, is in contact with the National Labor Relations Board to have ballots mailed in the next few days. Votes will be counted on July 6.

The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts “respects the right of workers to organize for a union,” Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO, said in an emailed statement responding to questions from Bloomberg News. The organization is actively working with the National Labor Relations Board “to facilitate an election later this month, giving every eligible employee the opportunity to fully understand the process and make her own decision. The PPLM will honor the results of that election.”

Visiting schedule

A Massachusetts worker joined the union effort after clinic leadership made the decision earlier this year to reduce patient visit time to 10 minutes for certain visits, instead of 20. That includes screening for sexually transmitted infections and advice on pregnancy options. The employee, who requested anonymity because he feared being singled out as an abortion provider, also said another complaint is that the organization offers minimal paid parental leave.

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“Not only to attract the most qualified people, but to increase equity in an organization, you need to have benefits and pay that make people want to work there,” Propersi-Grossman said. “You can’t go to the supermarket and pay with a mission statement. You have to pay with money.”

It’s not just clinic workers who are seeking to organize. Guttmacher Employees United, which is trying to unionize about 70 workers at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care researcher, will also seek a union vote this month.

“Guttmacher management has and will continue to encourage staff to participate in this election and their right to vote,” the organization said in an emailed statement. “After the result of the elections, we will participate in the contract negotiations.”

Madeleine Haas, who is part of the organizing committee and has worked at the institute for two years, said “there are structural cultural problems at Guttmacher that have been there for a while.”

“Some of the things we want to see change are getting us closer to pay equity, giving us clearer avenues for promotion, establishing more transparency in decision-making, better working conditions, and many, many other things,” Haas said.

Shemroske, the Minneapolis clinic worker, said those who don’t understand the need for a union should think about “why they feel comfortable without one.” “If we are not being treated correctly, how can we provide the care that patients need at a time when things are so stigmatized?”

–With the help of jose eidelson.

To contact the author of this story:
kelsey butler in New York at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
rebeca greenfield at [email protected]

Millie Munshi
ethan bronner

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