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Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin workers seek to unionize

Planned Parenthood affiliates elsewhere have also launched unionization efforts, citing the end of Roe vs. Wade

A blue sign says "Planned Parenthood."
A sign outside of the Planned Parenthood in Waukegan, Ill., on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Angela Major/WPR

Health care workers employed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin have announced their intentions to form a union.

The move comes as affiliates of the women’s health provider elsewhere launched unionization efforts, many citing a changing landscape for abortion services after Roe vs. Wade was overturned in 2022.

The Wisconsin organizers filed to be recognized under the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, or WFNHP. About 100 health care staffers, including registered nurses, nurse practitioners and patient navigators, would be in the unit, said Emily Siegrist, a nurse practitioner and organizing leader.

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“We are looking to form a union in order to have a seat at the table with management,” Siegrist said. “We work hard, endlessly, day after day with patients who get a lot of their preventative and reproductive care through Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and it’s important work that we’re doing.”

The unit petitioned for recognition on Dec. 19. They must hold an election for the effort to move forward, said Jamie Lucas, WFNHP’s executive director. The timeline for that election, which will be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, has not yet been determined, he added.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said the organization is committed to protecting the rights of those they serve.

“This value is no different when it comes to employees and their right to organize a union in their workplace. PPWI intends to honor the results of the NLRB conducted election and work in good faith with the union should it be certified,” the organization stated.

Last year, Planned Parenthood workers across five Midwestern states filed to organize with the Service Employees International Union. An affiliate in Massachusetts also unionized around the same time. Workers in both units argued that the momentous change to federal abortion law signaled by the end of Roe vs. Wade would affect their ability to provide care.

Siegrist said the added stress caused by changing laws has led to burnout among providers.

“I think there was a little more pressure on … direct care service people to ramp up and see more patients,” she said. “We want to have an opportunity where we want to express that and make sure that we’re providing a sustainable workforce for our patients and for the organization itself.”

The legality of abortion in Wisconsin has been shifting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that landmark decision, making abortion a matter of state law. A Civil War-era law still on the books in Wisconsin was widely interpreted as banning all abortion in the Badger State. A legal challenge to that law is now pending and is expected to go before the state Supreme Court.

In the meantime, abortion care providers have resumed services, citing lower court decisions that reinterpreted the 19th-century law.