SAINT PAUL – Frontline healthcare workers with Planned Parenthood North Central States, who work in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, announced their union victory Thursday following a vote count by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that saw 90% support from the workers who voted.
Speaking at a virtual presser following the vote, Planned Parenthood Training and Development Specialist Ashley Schmidt shared why this is such an important victory during a challenging time for their industry:
“I am thrilled to announce that earlier today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the votes from our 3-week long mail-ballot election, and we overwhelmingly voted in support of forming our union with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa with 90% voting yes! This is an amazing day and will make Planned Parenthood an even better space for our patients and for those of us doing this critical lifesaving work,” said Schmidt, who works in Nebraska. “We are champions of sexual and reproductive healthcare, education, political and community organizing, and so much more. This is a sad and difficult time for our country, but today we have some good news for those fighting for justice.”
The group consists of over 400 frontline workers who do around 100 different jobs at 28 locations across the five states. Workers provide abortion care, cancer screenings, birth control, family planning, sexual and reproductive health education, political and community organizing, and much more across the five states.
Also speaking Thursday was Sage Shemroske, a Planned Parenthood employee in Minnesota who works as a HCA, who talked about why this win is so important for both workers and patients:
“This victory is a turning point for us and reproductive healthcare workers everywhere. It’s us, the workers, talking everyday to people, 40 hours a week, whether that’s about excitement or fear or anxiety. But our patients, who come to us from places of stigma, sexism, and homophobia, cannot receive the care they deserve because staff are too often burnt out,” said Shemroske. “Today we are saying if you support reproductive justice, you support workers’ rights and we hope you will stand with us as we continue to battle for the equity and respect workers across the world deserve.”
April Clark, a Senior Training and Development specialist who works in Iowa, talked about how proud the group is and the next steps in their work:
“Unionization will make PPNCS stronger. It will most importantly allow us to give the best quality compassionate care to our patients by ensuring that we have adequate staffing ratios and a voice at the table when decisions are being made that affect our patients and our work,” said Clark. “We’ve been working on unionization for a long time, but the work is just beginning. Now we begin the process of bargaining for a contract: for a seat at the table for front line workers, for fair wages, better benefits, and for ensuring that we continue the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
Mimi Arabalo, a Bilingual Health Educator who has worked for Planned Parenthood in the Omaha area for six years, shared her excitement:
“In my time here I have seen my incredible frontline colleagues go above and beyond for our patients and community, often at the cost of themselves. We have served our roles without breaks, without pay equity, and without a seat at the table to have a say in our own working conditions,” said Arabalo. “ Today’s election results show that we have had enough. We still stand with our patients and our communities, but we cannot stand with Planned Parenthood without standing up for ourselves. There is no Planned Parenthood without us. We can’t care for our communities if we aren’t being cared for, and forming this union is a way for us to have some accountability for that care.”