July 24, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Planned Parenthood is supposed to dispense care and concern, but workers in Central New York say that they are feeling more like unwanted “step-children” – and they want union representation to redress their grievances.
No less than eight elected officials from both the New York State Legislature and United States Congress are calling upon Karen Nelson, CEO, Planned Parenthood of Western and Central New York, to honor workers’ overwhelming decision to have CWA Local 1168 represent them in future contract negotiations.
So, far, however, Planned Parenthood's leadership is refusing – insisting that an official election must be held.
Roughly 70 percent of the Planned Parenthood workers in Central New York already signed union authorization cards in June. The 60-plus employees working in five Planned Parenthood centers around Central New York, say that management has busted down workers to part-time status, while also stripping them of their job titles, and telling them they must reapply for their positions.
“Workers are not only angry, they are hurt,” says Ann Converso, CWA Local 1168 organizer and RN. “They are hurt that they are not being treated well.”
Fed up, as many as 10 Planned Parent workers have reportedly left the organization in the last three weeks. Those remaining, say that patients are often double booked, requiring staffers to stay on the job long past regular business hours. At the same time, workes say that post-merger management has callously altered worker schedules with no regard for employees’ familial obligations.
“Things have been going downhill ever since the merger,” says Myra Perry, a Planned Parenthood nurse in Central New York for almost 10 years. “People are being run ragged. We want a lot of things – but the biggest thing is to be treated like professionals.”
Repeated attempts to reach Planned Parenthood for comment have been unsuccessful.
In January, Planned Parenthood merged its Western and Central New York centers under one umbrella. And that is what has so many workers and their supporters confounded.
CWA Local 1168 has successfully negotiated contacts with Planned Parenthood of Western New York since the 1990s.
And with its history of successful contracts in Western New York, and an overwhelming majority of Central New York workers signing unionization cards last month, Local 1168 organizers say they simply did not anticipate management now attempting to block further unionization efforts.
But in addition to having their working conditions upended, Central New York workers, including Perry, charge that Planned Parenthood managers are also actively trying to limit their contact with workers in Western New York. Union represented workers in Western New York reportedly earn about $3-an-hour more than their brothers and sisters in Central New York.
Management could honor June's authorization cards, but is instead insisting that the move to unionization in Central New York first go through an election process – which could take more than a month.
Workers in Central New York, however, say that the merger – and the ensuing changes – have made them short-staffed, and there isn't any more time to waste on an election they say is already a foregone conclusion.
“Wait times are becoming longer for patients,” Perry says. “We’re pushing to make this happen so that we can start having a say in what is transpiring.”
According to Converso, Planned Parenthood employees simply expected more from their employers.
“At this point we are not willing to go to an election,” Converso says.
For many women and their families in need of health servics, Planned Parenthood has become their only source for primary care. Staffers feel a special obligation to the clients they serve.
“I’m planning to stick it out because I believe in the Planed Parenthood mission,” Perry says. “We all want to be in women's healthcare.”