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Planned Parenthood Northern California Workers Unionize With SEIU Local 1021

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Planned Parenthood signage is displayed outside a health care clinic in Inglewood, Los Angeles County, on May 16, 2023.  (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Workers for Planned Parenthood Northern California have unionized after more than 75% of workers there voted to join SEIU Local 1021 on Friday.

The workers, now known as PP NorCal Workers United, began organizing last December and publicly announced plans to form a union in January.

“It’s been really something that has been a long time coming; we’ve been waiting for it with bated breath,” said Debbie Nguyen, a Planned Parenthood Northern California clinician in Oakland. “We’ve been going back and forth with them to work on getting recognized for months now.”

A federal mediator confirmed that a supermajority of Planned Parenthood Northern California workers — 77% — had voted to join SEIU Local 1021 during Friday’s “card check,” in which employees who are part of a bargaining unit sign “cards” that state and authorize their wish for union representation.

SEIU Local 1021’s vice president of organizing, Brandon Dawkins, welcomed the move, saying Planned Parenthood Northern California workers’ “values align with union values,” describing it as “a natural fit.”

“It’s a new day for the workers of Planned Parenthood in Northern California,” Dawkins said in an interview with KQED. “With them having the solidarity and the ability to come together and become part of the larger labor movement.”

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Planned Parenthood Northern California has voluntarily recognized the union. In an emailed statement to KQED on Saturday, CEO Gilda Gonzales said:

“Planned Parenthood Northern California (PPNorCal) respects our team members’ decision to choose SEIU Local 1021 as their exclusive bargaining representative. We are prepared to work collaboratively to ensure PPNorCal stays strong, centered on our mission, values, and commitment to serving our patients.”

Kim Delhonte, a Santa Rosa-based reproductive health specialist who does telehealth for Planned Parenthood Northern California, said her work is seeing an increase in patients from other states who are no longer able to get access to the care they need, with heavy patient loads and often one- to two-hour wait times in many clinics.

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“It’s really putting us at a place where we are overwhelmed, we’re understaffed, we are unsupported by upper management in a lot of our ideas and things that we have suggested,” Delhonte told KQED. “So this is like a huge move for all of us.”

This week, an Arizona Supreme Court ruling found state officials can enforce a law dating from 1864 that criminalizes all abortions except in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, making it one of 14 other states that are already enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, along with two others that ban them after six weeks of pregnancy.

Delhonte said that she and her coworkers decided to unionize because it will help them give the best level of care they can to their patients, many of whom, she said, are lower- or middle-income, unhoused or members of the LGBTQ community seeking a safe place to find care.

“We love the organization,” Delhonte said. “We wanted to see meaningful change that protects us and, by protecting us, protects our patients and the care that they receive.”

KQED’s Attila Pelit, Lakshmi Sarah and Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman contributed to this story.

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