Health careLaborNews

Lawmakers back Denver Planned Parenthood workers’ union cause

Author: Joey Bunch - June 13, 2018 - Updated: June 28, 2018

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Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains addresses the media outside the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs, in February 2016. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Colorado Springs Gazette)

Legislators who defend reproductive rights on Tuesday urged Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains to support another Democratic value, the right to unionize.

The question for workers at metro Denver clinics is pending before the National Labor Relations Board. Denver-area clinic workers voted in December to form a union. Management appealed to the NLRB, contending workers at the Denver clinics shouldn’t be able to silo themselves off from the rest of Planned Parenthood of the Rockies.

If the NLRB allows a new vote, it would include clinics in Alamosa, Durango, Cortez and Salida in western Colorado; Farmington and Albuquerque in New Mexico, as well as Las Vegas, Nev.

The workers are being represented by the politically savvy Service Employees International Union 105, pitting two of Democrats main supporters — unions and women’s health and reproductive rights advocates — against one another, while turning to an agency led by the Trump administration to settle the dispute.

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Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Jared Polis poses with union advocates supporting the right to organize for Denver-area Planned Parenthood clinics. (Photo courtesy fo the PPRM Bargaining Team via Facebook)

“We pledge our support to the PPRM employees of Colorado in their fight for a voice on the job to be able to better serve their patients and strengthen PPRM,” states the letter from 37 Democratic lawmakers. “Through a democratic election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), these employees have voted to come together in one voice and form a union. We call on PPRM leadership and management to recognize and respect the vote of their employees to form a union, and we ask that they immediately withdraw their appeal at the NLRB.”

The letter goes on to make the workers’ case for higher wages and better working conditions at 14 Denver-area clinics, noting management’s resistance.

“Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains values the choice of every single employee impacted by the important decision to form a union,” spokesperson Whitney Phillips told Colorado Politics. “Over the past year, SEIU Local 105 worked to organize only 14 of our 24 health centers (14 of 18 in Colorado, 0 of 4 in New Mexico, and 0 of 2 in Southern Nevada).

“During this time, we communicated repeatedly our belief that all workers should have their voices heard, urging SEIU to include all health center staff in any proposed bargaining unit. With less than 40 percent of all health center employees voting to form a union, we requested that the National Labor Relations Board reconsider the exclusion of employees at 10 of our health centers. PPRM respects the long history of our partnership with unions and believes in the important contributions labor makes in our communities. We urge SEIU to allow all our employees the opportunity to make this important decision for themselves.”

Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver; Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver; and Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, delivered the letter Planned Parenthood Tuesday, according to the union.

“We find it surprising and troubling that when frontline employees have made the choice to sit at the table when pay, working conditions, safety and customer satisfaction are discussed Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains leadership would fail to respect that choice,” the three lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The rest of the legislators who endorsed the letter are:

Sen. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo
Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder
Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora
Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville
Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood
Sen. Susan Lontine, D-Denver
Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs
Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora
Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada
Rep. Jeni James Arndt, D-Fort Collins
Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder
Rep. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village
Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver
Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge
Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver
Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins
Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield
Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver
Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder
Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Denver
Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City
Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood
Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs
Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango
Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood
Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eager
Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denfer
Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton
Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont
Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora
Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver
Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster
Rep. David Young, D-Greeley

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


One comment

  • Donna

    June 16, 2018 at 10:38 am

    I am involved in the union effort at Planned Parenthood. I decided unionization was necessary for multiple reasons, having worked for 3 PP affiliates for almost 22 years after starting as a volunteer.
    Thanks for the article and the support.
    One way to help and to stay involved is to like our Facebook page: PPRM Bargaining team, so we can keep you updated. Please also share some of the information with your friends.

    Link to get involved and share on FB: https://www.facebook.com/PPRMBargaining/

    Link to get involved and share on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PPRMBargaining

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