Minnesota’s highest-ranking union officer added to the chorus of labor voices decrying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, eliminating the federal right to abortion.
“Reproductive rights are workers’ rights,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bernie Burnham said in a public statement, calling the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years as the law of the land “a direct attack on working women and people who can get pregnant.”
Research shows people denied abortion care face increased health, wellness and financial risks as a result. Burnham noted that, in the post-Roe landscape, those risks will disproportionally impact “low-income women, black, brown, non-binary and trans workers seeking care.”
“Fortunately for working women and people who can get pregnant in Minnesota, our state Supreme Court has ruled our state constitution protects reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy,” Burnham added. “Minnesota’s unions are committed to protecting these freedoms and closing disparities through policies such as universal paid family and medical leave, affordable childcare, and creating more family-sustaining jobs.”
Leaders of several national unions, including the Service Employees (SEIU), Communications Workers of America, Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) and American Federation of Teachers, issued similar statements in the hours following the June 24 ruling.
National AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler called the decision “a devastating blow to working women and families.”
“We strongly believe everyone should have control over their own bodies, including decisions over their personal reproductive health care,” Shuler added.
Some unions already have begun strategizing ways to use the collective bargaining process to ensure access to abortion care.
The Newsguild-CWA, which represents about 26,000 journalists and other workers in the U.S. and Canada, began holding meetings in May, after a draft of the Dobbs decision was leaked to Politico, moving quickly to “develop bargaining approaches that provide coverage for abortion care in collective bargaining agreements and to equip our membership with the tools to organize their coworkers to take action on this core labor issue.”
“Working people need access to safe, affordable abortion care just as we need quality health care generally, parental leave, childcare, and all other policies that help us support our families,” NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss said. “This is an issue that spans class, race and gender. And we should fight for it as such.”
That fight will play out in the political arena, too, as several union leaders noted.
Education Minnesota, the statewide union of nearly 90,000 educators, issued a statement from its executive board calling on unions “to harness their collective power and fight for affordable health care for all, equal pay for equal work and paid family and medical leave so workers can care for themselves or loved ones without fear of losing a paycheck.”
“That’s why this fall’s election is so important,” the statement added. “Every Minnesotan needs to be a voter to elect candidates who will defend workers’ rights – including their right to health care and bodily autonomy. We can make it happen, but only if Minnesotans do it together.”
This story first appeared in the Union Advocate.