A large majority of employees at the Guttmacher Institute — one of the nation’s largest reproductive health research organizations — declared their intent Monday to form a union, per a letter shared first with The 19th.
The push comes after months of low morale at the institute — and just as the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling that could weaken or overturn Roe v. WadeThe case that guaranteed an abortion right. Interviews withThe 19thGuttmacher employees argued that the court decision is strengthening their argument for a union.
The Guttmacher employees have joined with the Office and Professional Employees International Union and are asking Guttmacher’s managers to voluntarily recognize the union by Thursday. If this does not happen, the Guttmacher employees will file a petition with National Labor Relations Board. A count of the 109 employees in the company shows that 61 are union-eligible. The 19th.
The institute supports abortion rights and is well-known for its research in areas such as abortion, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases. All of this is cited in publications across the political spectrum. The 19th. Guttmacher is not affiliated with any university. It has been troubled by high unemployment in the past year. staff turnoverMuch of it has been reported publicly. Employees Some workers have cited issues such as low pay and promotion opportunities, as well as a lack of benefit structure.
According to union organizers, 37 employees have left the organization in the last 15 months or indicated they are planning to leave. Out of Guttmacher’s 11-person policy arm, 10 people have quit. Sixteen additional employees have left the institute’s research division — a figure the union estimates constitutes more than a quarter of the organization’s researchers.
“We’re looking to improve the workplace for all of us — from salaries … to ensuring there are paths for promotion to the need for conflict resolution processes to involving staff in decision-making,” said Cynthia Beavin, a senior research assistant who has worked at Guttmacher for four years. “Very little information about decisions is shared with staff, and all but one of the groups designed to support staff and help address issues in the workplace have been dissolved.”
“We want a union to secure the good benefits we already have, bring back processes that were working in the past, and come up with new solutions to our current issues,” she added.
The future will present new and complex questions regarding abortion rights, particularly if the Supreme Court allows states to ban or further restrict access. Guttmacher employees cited this context when arguing for unionization.
“What we’re talking about are people then being able to focus on the work itself and move ahead and really face all these challenges that are coming down the pike — being able to help provide research and analysis that supports what is happening in the states and potentially federally,” said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state policy for the institute. Nash has been working there since 1999, and she is the only member of her staff to not have resigned in the past 15 month. “This is about setting us up for the future.”
This is the first time in Guttmacher’s history that its employees have sought to unionize. The institute, which began in 2007 as an offshoot for Planned Parenthood has been independent since 2007.
The effort comes as a wave of workers across employment sectors — including media, political campaigns and nonprofit staffers — have sought union representation. Notably, other reproductive health organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation and the National Women’s Law Center, have recently unionized.
Union organizers highlighted benefits, pay, and promotion structures as issues they want to address.
Union organizers report that entry-level salaries can start as low as $40,000. New parents are granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave — about three months — and can take up to 14 more weeks unpaid. (UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, recommends familiesYou will receive six months of paid parental leaves, or approximately 24 weeks.
Nash also stated that employees are not eligible for promotions, even if they take on new responsibilities. Also, there is no structure for merit-based salary increases. And the “COVID hours” the institute offered at the start of the pandemic — paid time off for those who contracted the virus or had to care for sick family members — have not been renewed since September.
“What people are looking for is a voice at the table,” Nash said. “People really feel that when we can work in collaboration with management, that’s the best way forward. Whether it’s on how the office works, to the content we produce, to the environment we’re working in. Because everything is hard right now.”