REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH WORKERS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO.

AuthorJaffe, Sarah

Working at a Planned Parenthood health center is difficult in the best of times. Grace, whose last name is omitted to protect her identity, is a float nurse in Minnesota, meaning she fills in as needed across several clinics, providing a variety of services, ranging from family planning to abortion care. "Across the board, no matter which clinic we're at, it's always busy," she says.

The workers have put up with the hustle and understaffing, not to mention harassment by anti-abortion activists, because they care about the patients. Grace finished nursing school during the pandemic, when nurses were in high demand. Planned Parenthood was where she wanted to be. "Being able to have my first nursing job in a place that fights for reproductive justice is like a soul match," she says.

But passion for the job doesn't mean the workers overlook the fact that things could be improved. That's why Grace and her colleagues publicly announced their union drive with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa on May 26.

With the long-threatened repeal of Roe v. Wade becoming a reality, the weight that reproductive health and justice workers like Grace carry is only increasing. Already, abortion clinics--and the network of organizations that support them and those who use them--were under terrific amounts of stress, performing delicate procedures, and shepherding patients through an array of emotions under conditions deliberately made more difficult by legislators and anti-abortion protesters. Now they face a future in which the only thing certain is that their jobs will get even harder.

"We've always needed a voice in a union, but especially now," Grace says. "We are planning to ramp up our services, especially in Minnesota. Oftentimes, there are decisions made by a small group of people at the top, and they don't really know how those decisions look in action. We would like to be heard about the decisions that affect us, and ultimately our patients."

But Planned Parenthood North Central States (PPNCS), the affiliate for which Grace and her colleagues work, didn't voluntarily recognize the union, meaning that while preparing for Roe to fall, they were also gearing up for a National Labor Relations Board election. While Grace is certain they'll win, the situation is nevertheless frustrating: "At the end of the day, we're on the same side as the executive team, it's just that they're an executive team."

"Abortion services are already spread thin," she adds. "We're...

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