Last August, after tense discussions, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette (PPCW) workers from the 10 Northwest branches formed their first union, joining ranks with the Service Employees International Union Local (SEIU) 49. While this move was a victory for employees that wanted more of a voice over the policies and decisions of the local clinics, forming the union was just the first step.
The newborn union then jumped headfirst into its first bargaining process with the PPCW board in November, which lasted all winter and finally came to a close last week. The verdict? Both parities involved appear content with the tentative agreement—which focused on reasonable wage increases—despite initial head-butting.
"At the start, there was some conflict between us and the board," says SEIU 49's political director Felisa Hagins. "But then we saw that Cara Jacobson [board chair] was really interested in respecting the voice of the workers. We probably wouldn't have had the same outcome without her."
While successfully negotiating a union contract (especially the first of its kind) is applaud-worthy on its own, Hagins says the real victory lay in the work leading up to the agreement. "Every agreement is a reason to celebrate," she says. "I think the real glory came from the amazing workers who really did have to stand up and face their fears to form this union. It's impressive any time workers take back their careers."
Although Planned Parenthood found it tricky to squeeze wage increases into their tight budget, Marian Hammond, spokeswoman for PPCW, says that PPCW remains "very happy with the outcome."
"These workers are so committed and passionate about providing quality health care, they would have done anything," says SEIU's Hagins. "And that's exactly what the Planned Parenthood board saw."
The agreement itself will be finalized next week and set into motion on July 1.