Unionbusting at Planned Parenthood

Recently the Intercept reported on Planned Parenthood in Colorado trying to unionbust a local organization which is trying to unionize with the SEIU, by saying well just unionize the three states around you, THEN you can unionize. 

Reporter Aida Chavez writes: 

The case is Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood Inc. v. SEIU.

Staff for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in coordination with SEIU Local 105, won the election for their union in December 2017. But shortly after the vote to unionize, Planned Parenthood leadership, instead of recognizing the new unit, turned to the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board to challenge the outcome. The Planned Parenthood bosses won the first round, and the appeal will now move to the full five-member labor board.

In April, Trump labor board appointees Marvin Kaplan and Bill Emanuel sided with Planned Parenthood’s argument that the union ought to include all the clinics in the regional agency, which spans three states. Meanwhile, former President Obama’s appointee, Lauren McFerran, voted against the appeal and in favor of the workers.



It’s extremely difficult to drive hundreds of miles to organize another Planned Parenthood location in another state.

AND that’s exactly what they want. This makes it impossible to have a union in Colorado. Why? To save money. They don’t want to pay people more. They don’t want them to have more benefits. And they certainly don’t want union mandated raises. They would affect their bottom line.

WORST OF ALL? Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is now allying itself with and appealing to the Trump administration to make it impossible for their workers to unionize.

WHY is Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains afraid of unions?

You’d think that an organization that purports to help men women and children would be equally ecstatic to help their workers get better benefits, salaries, pensions, and raises, all things that a union helps people get. The fact that people are organizing shows that this is not currently happening.

Even people currently agitating for the union say they would be happy to sit down with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains leadership and talk about ways they can have a better working environment.

Chavez continues: (The bargaining team pleads with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains) … leadership to sit down to discuss competitive wages and raises, fully employer-paid health insurance for families, along with issues like worker retention that they said have “plagued” health centers across Colorado.

“We want a voice at the table and we are asking that Vicki Cowart drop her many appeals and sit down with us once and for all,” the union bargaining team said in a statement. “Look us in the eye and talk to us about our struggles with wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Ultimately, the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains seems to be treating its people like things, like “human resources” and not actual people. They are showing the value that they place on their lowest paid workers and even their nursing staff. They are showing that as much as they talk about empowerment, these are just empty words.  They are betraying their values and trying to get away with the dirty tricks that major corporations try- how to squeeze more work out of fewer people for less cost.  Proof? I’ve written about this before- What happens when you don’t pay a living wage (with real numbers on turnover cost)

Efficiency Wages and the Nonprofit Sector (How Walmart (WAL-MART!) is showing us up!)

10 Reasons to pay Fundraising Staff More

What is the consequence of unionbusting? What happens when there’s turnover?

If a nonprofit is having problems holding onto staff, that really can only be bad for the people that you serve.

Why? When there is lots of turnover, there is no consistency.

No feeling of loyalty or joy in a job well done.

If a nonprofit mistreats its staff, by not allowing them to have decent work, including raises, benefits for their families or bad working conditions, how will that staff treat the people you serve?

When nonprofit staff are not treated well, the message is, “You don’t matter, your job doesn’t matter, and your whole life is worthless unless you’re giving 110% to the cause.”

So these at-will workers, many of them women, try even harder to prove themselves worthy of not even a raise, just a seat at the table to talk about perhaps more vacation or benefits for their own families. And this is the response they get.

When you are a staunch feminist and advocate for reproductive justice, you don’t want to think that one of your favorite organizations is actively hurting the people who work there through poor working conditions, bad wages, no chance for advancement, or terrible benefits.

But that is exactly what is happening. And it is what will continue to happen until we all stand up and demand better treatment.

Surely this is just an isolated incident in Colorado? No. This Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is going EVEN FURTHER.

According to Chavez, they are actively backing anti-union candidates in various local elections as well.

They are coming out against unions, and against better working conditions for nonprofit workers. This truly shows how little they value human life and human dignity.

Full Disclosure: Do I have a horse in this race? Answer: Not really. 

I was an intern for Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York City for roughly 6 months. I was unpaid for the first few months of my internship. Then I requested a $200 monthly stipend for a train ticket from where I was living with my grandparents. Because I was fresh out of college and had no income coming in, I could not afford to live in NYC, or afford to keep putting my train ticket on my credit card. This was granted. It was my first job after college, and I was not trained, not introduced to the Planned Parenthood staff, and nobody said hey, we could train you up and hire you! After a few months I left and went to work at the Economist down the street. I was disenchanted with Planned Parenthood and their so-called mission of empowering women. It didn’t feel like an empowerment organization. It felt like just another dead-end job.

Later, I met a person who worked at the Planned Parenthood of the Columbia Willamette. They unionized while this person was there. She said it was awful, because it divided the staff and created bad feelings. And she was working in fundraising so could not be part of the union. However, she was also severely underpaid when she worked there, and so were many of her colleagues. They felt that there was nothing they could do.

Finally, a Planned Parenthood chapter called me up several years ago and asked me to come speak at their regional conference. I said, what are you paying? And they laughed and said “NOTHING” and I said, “Gosh I wish I could help you, but no thank you.”

I tell you this to show you the pattern of behavior I’ve noticed. This Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains unionbusting is not an isolated incident. This is how they treat people. Even people who volunteer for them. Even people who work there for money.

If I had a choice between giving to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and… giving to.. say… The Lilith Fund, I know I’d choose the Lilith Fund.  Give to people who are providing abortions in embattled states like Texas or The Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa. They exist and they need you.

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