Planned Parenthood workers in Minnesota, nearby states vote to join SEIU union

A group of people hold planned parenthood signs
Abortion rights activists protested in Minneapolis on June 24.
Tim Evans for MPR News

A majority of workers at Planned Parenthood North Central States, which includes Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Nebraska, voted to form a union with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa on Thursday.

In a press conference, organizers announced that a majority of workers voted to join the union, with 238 ‘yes’ votes and 26 ‘no’ votes. Workers said they now plan to move quickly on drafting an initial contract.

“We will start pushing right away to get our first contract that we know will help ensure the best staffing possible to support our patients, especially in states where we already know that we’re facing increased restrictions, bans and attacks on human rights,” said Ashley Schmidt, a training and development specialist at Planned Parenthood, serving Iowa and Nebraska.

Schmidt said Planned Parenthood North Central states represents more than 400 workers doing over 100 different jobs — work that she said has been made more difficult due to the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“Now we've begun the process of bargaining for a contract, for a seat at the table for frontline workers, for fair wages, better benefits and for ensuring that we continue the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, not just for our patients, but for our staff and our communities,” said April Clark, a senior training and development specialist located in Iowa.

Some other priorities for the first contract will include staffing ratios, to ensure all employees can take regular breaks and cover when people are out, and that the clinics can serve patients in a timely manner.

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“Our patients, who come to us from places of stigma, sexism and homophobia, cannot receive the care they deserve if our [health care assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, medical assistants and clinicians] are burnt out,” said Sage Shemroske, a health care assistant at Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis. “We demand what Planned Parenthood has supposedly always offered us: a safe space for autonomous decisions.”

Organizers said they’re also sending surveys to workers across Planned Parenthood North Central States to solicit feedback, and ensure the contract reflects what people need.

“PPNCS welcomes Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa (SEIU) as the representative of bargaining unit employees,” said Molly Gage, vice president of Human Resources for PPNCS, said in a statement.

“At a time when reproductive rights and the freedom of bodily autonomy are under intense attack, we will work with SEIU to support our employees, and to strengthen public policy, and improve access to abortion and all sexual and reproductive health care and education.”