One of Minnesota’s largest labor unions has rescinded its endorsement of state Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, saying she oversaw a fierce union-busting campaign as CEO of Planned Parenthood’s affiliate in the Upper Midwest.
Leaders with the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) say contrary to its progressive reputation, Planned Parenthood North Central States has acted more like Amazon and Starbucks in trying to quash union activity.
Since some 435 workers unionized a year ago, the nonprofit health care organization has fired two elected union leaders and disciplined the rest. Workers allege the disciplinary actions were in retaliation for union activity and have filed charges with federal labor regulators.
“A CEO who engages in this course of conduct toward the elected leaders of a union … does not deserve the labor movement’s support as an elected official,” said Phillip Cryan, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa, during a Thursday news conference.
The move by SEIU could lead to a larger rebuke of Richardson by other unions, which represent a key political base for the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. Richardson ran for office saying unions are “under attack” but she was committed to standing with them.
Richardson did not respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood North Central States says it categorically denies allegations of union-busting and the union’s “unfounded accusations of intimidation, surveillance, excessive discipline and targeting of bargaining team members.”
“No staff have been disciplined or fired by PPNCS for union organizing, however, unions are not designed to be a shield for misconduct,” the statement said.
Rescinding its endorsement is the latest in the union’s campaign to pressure the organization to reinstate one of the terminated workers and reduce the severity of penalties on the other union leaders.
In April, workers held a demonstration outside the Minnesota House chambers at the state Capitol, where Richardson was working, to demand that she meet with them and reinstate fired union leader Grace Larson.
Larson, a licensed practical nurse, said she was terminated for sending a whistleblower letter from her personal email to another organization about a co-worker accused of assault; she said Planned Parenthood told her it was retaliation.
Eleven other elected union leaders received “final written warnings” after the organization obtained a copy of a private Signal group chat in which confidential information about the organization was allegedly shared. Workers say the discipline is unprecedented and carries the risk of immediate termination.
The union planned to hold another rally at the Capitol in the final week of the legislative session but called it off when Richardson agreed to meet with Larson and an SEIU executive.
Larson said that meeting was ultimately a disappointment.
“It felt like just a performative kind of meeting to have us not show up during the last week of the legislative session because ultimately nothing came out of it,” Larson said.
By Max Nesterak of MinnesotaReformer.com