Worker Rights Union Nonprofit Engagement Protest Activism Resist

(Image: ProgressOhio, Creative Commons)

Today’s political climate is hostile to labor organizing. Rights enshrined since the New Deal era—such as collective bargaining—are under threat, as an increasingly conservative Supreme Court deals blow after blow to unions.

These developments come at a time when a number of vulnerable demographics face hardship. From immigrants to women struggling to pay for vital healthcare services, elected leaders are making life difficult for people from all walks of life.

During tumultuous periods like this, it is vital for nonprofit organizations dedicated to the social good to support human rights generally, even if those rights fall outside the scope of their missions. That is why Planned Parenthood’s recent appeal to the Trump Administration’s labor board to nullify a union vote in Colorado is so troubling.

Organizing with Local 105 of the SEIU, staff at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) successfully voted to unionize in December of last year. In direct opposition to their staff’s wishes and interests, the organization’s executives immediately appealed the vote. The workers lost in the first round review, and both sides now face a hearing in front of the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board.

This is not a good look for Planned Parenthood. In the wake of the 2016 elections, the nonprofit stood out for its vigorous defense of reproductive rights. It played a key organizing role in the Women’s March and became a nationally recognized flag-bearer for the opposition to the incoming administration’s socially regressive policies.

As a result of its elevated profile, Planned Parenthood raked in record donations, as energized donors sought to position themselves against a toxic political agenda. Now, Planned Parenthood has (at least partially) bought into that very agenda in an effort to save resources at their workers’ expense.

Spokespersons for Planned Parenthood’s leadership have argued that the organization does not seek to squash workers’ voices, but merely wishes to clarify which employees should be able to unionize. PPRM staffers, however, are not buying it. One worker named Amanda Martin told The Intercept as much: “If PPRM wants to lift the voices of all of its employees, then it needs to prove it by stopping its effort to silence those that have decided to speak up and organize.”

Here, Martin defends what have been basic labor rights for the better part of a century: exercising free speech and organizing in the workplace. With nonprofits like Planned Parenthood joining forces with the very powers that want to eliminate those rights, workers face difficult odds in their fight for economic stability. Consequently, the overall social wellbeing that nonprofits collectively strive for becomes more difficult to obtain.

You can take action to support the Colorado staff’s unionizing efforts via a digital campaign sponsored by the AFL-CIO via The Action Network.


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