At the Working People’s Forum on Race, Class, and Justice on June 2, an audience member stood at a microphone and told all four Democratic gubernatorial candidates that he’s seen workers facing “obstacles” in Colorado in organizing a union at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) and at Denver International Airport (DIA). He asked the candidates to tell him what he or she would say to a “boss opposing workers’ fight for a better life by forming a union.”
Democrats at the labor forum spoke in support of labor rights generally, with some siding more clearly with PPRM workers in the dispute, which has stalled the formation of a union at 14 of 18 PPRM clinics in Colorado.
“I will say to Planned Parenthood, and I have told [PPRM Director] Vicki Cowart this privately, and I would say it publicly,” U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D) of Boulder said at the forum.”The workers have voted. Give them their union. Don’t do an end-run around the people who work at Planned Parenthood providing reproductive health services to people, women and some men, every day. They voted for good reasons—for better security, for better pay and for better benefits. Let’s start the negotiations. Let’s stop the delays.”
A recent poll shows Polis leading the Democratic pack, though about four in ten voters are undecided.
Colorado’s Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, running to replace Colorado’s term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), echoed Polis.
“My commitment to you is, yes, I’ll say it to DIA, I’ll say it to Planned Parenthood, there have been elections,” Lynne said. “Let the union do the work that the union should do on behalf of the people.”
Good on Polis and Lynne for speaking out against what is really a very powerful organization in the liberal world, especially in a state where unions, in this case SEIU, are not as big a player as, say, Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. But the whole situation is depressing to me.
In November, federal regulators approved a plan by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105 to unionize at 14 of 18 PPRM clinics in Colorado. Planned Parenthood fought the proposal, arguing it would welcome a union but only if it were approved by all of its workers at 24 clinics in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
After workers at the 14 clinics in Colorado voted in December for the union, PPRM lodged a successful appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, whose 2 to 1 vote in April against SEIU, with two Trump appointees in favor, has put the union effort on hold.
Planned Parenthood has stated that it values its “long history of our partnership with unions” and would welcome a unionized workforce, but it appealed SEIU’s vote to federal regulators because only 40 percent of its workers voted for the union.
When they say 40 percent of the workers voted for the union, they are not saying how many of the workers who voted for the union and they are not saying how many workers they are including–which may include 0 at the 4 clinics not covered by the vote. And appealing the decision to the Trump NLRB, I mean, that’s just disgusting for an organization like Planned Parenthood. I imagine there was no shortage of chortling over abortion and anti-abortion activists able to come together over keeping workplaces union free!
Planned Parenthood, just let your workers have their union. It’s OK! Nothing bad is going to happen!