Planned Parenthood workers file complaint amid stalled negotiations

DES MOINES — Planned Parenthood Workers in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota have filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board as the two sides work to reach a new contract.

It has been more than a year, and bargaining teams for Planned Parenthood and its health care clinic workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union, have met nearly three dozen times.

Ashley Schmidt, training and development specialist for Planned Parenthood of Nebraska and Western Iowa, said she is one of the few remaining members of the original bargaining team. She stressed the two sides are still far apart on some basic issues.

“We are really trying to get better wages and better health care,” Schmidt explained. “Those are our two really big asks.”

Schmidt acknowledged slight progress has been made. A past contract offer from Planned Parenthood presented all 14 members of the union bargaining team with what’s known as a “final written notice,” making them at-will employees and effectively allowing the company to let them go for any reason, with no notice. Planned Parenthood countered it has continued to bargain in good faith.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1970s court ruling legalizing abortion, a patchwork of local and state laws has meant a rush for clinic services, including in Iowa. Schmidt stressed many of the employees who had remained at already understaffed and overwhelmed clinics were demoralized, and left for better-paying jobs.

“We can’t retain employees,” Schmidt noted. “We have had an over 44% turnover rate since last July. You know, we tout ourselves on being ‘reproductive experts,’ but it’s so hard to create experts when people don’t stay long enough to even gain any knowledge.”

The group is now awaiting word on its complaint with the labor relations board, in which it claims a Planned Parenthood employee was fired without just cause. Employees have also held recent informational pickets in Iowa and Minnesota.