Planned Parenthood’s Union Busting Could Have a Chilling Effect for Workers Everywhere

When Ashley Brink accepted a job at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) in April 2016, she knew it would mean taking a $3 an hour pay cut. It also entailed relocating from Wichita, Kansas, among the cheapest U.S. cities to live in, to Denver, one of the most expensive. 

But Brink was passionate about Planned Parenthood’s mission. In 2013, she’d helped reopen Wichita’s sole abortion clinic, closed four years earlier following the murder of its doctor, George Tiller. After three years of working as the funding and patient coordinator for the small clinic—a job she says included everything from checking in patients to helping them secure funding to travel to Wichita for abortions—she was “ready for a new adventure” with an organization she admired.

As a traveling health center assistant for PPRM, Brink works at multiple clinics across three states. “I get to help so many different communities access healthcare,” she says. “Access is very important to me.”

So Brink was dismayed when, in May 2017, PPRM announced that it was closing six of its clinics, including one in Casper, Wyoming—Planned Parenthood’s only facility in the entire state.

That was the moment when Brink says she and many of her co-workers decided they needed a union. In December 2017, employees at 14 clinics in the metro Denver area voted to form one.

That made PPRM just the sixth local Planned Parenthood affiliate to unionize, out of more than 50 nationwide. In at least two of these cases, the local employer was accused of attempting to squelch worker organizing. But this year, PPRM went a step further when it appealed the union vote to the National Labor Relations Board, as previously reported by the Intercept. That’s left employees like Brink feeling “disheartened” as they wait for a decision that could also have broad implications for workers nationwide.

A small group of PPRM employees first began organizing in the fall of 2016. Their key issues included…

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