A group of Texas Planned Parenthood workers said they lost their jobs Thursday after complaining about safety conditions and a lack of paid sick leave if they get the coronavirus.
KXAN News reports the abortion chain laid off more than a dozen employees in Austin last week, saying the pandemic is putting a financial strain on its work. Texas also temporarily stopped abortions and other non-essential medical procedures during the health crisis.
But Ella Nonni told the local news that she believes finances are not the only reason she lost her job.
“Our suspicion is that it was motivated by our organizing activity,” Nonni said.
She said she and other employees have been trying to form a union for almost a year, but Planned Parenthood managers did not seem receptive to the idea. The abortion chain has a history of opposing its employees unionizing.
Among Nonni’s concerns is paid sick leave for employees who have the coronavirus.
Here’s more from the report:
Nonni said there is not enough PPE [personal protective equipment] at the clinics, workers are being forced to do non-essential work for patients in-person and they’re not being offered paid sick leave if they come down with COVID-19 symptoms.
“There’s this big disconnect between the people managing us and the work that is being done on the ground,” Nonni said. “The reality is that a lot of our services, while vital, are not urgent.”
They highlighted their concerns in a letter published online and sent to the CEO on Monday. Less than 72 hours later, around 20 Austin employees were laid-off, Nonni reports.
The open letter pleaded with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Brian Lambrecht to protect employees during the national health crisis.
“Your decision to exempt us from being eligible to receive sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act puts us all at risk because employees will have to work while sick to stay financially afloat, thus perpetuating the spread of the virus,” the letter states.
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“You have also insisted that we continue to offer non-urgent in-person services without implementing proper protective procedures for all clinics. This places workers, patients, and our families at unnecessary risk,” it continues.
The employees presented five requests to Lambrecht. They include delaying all non-urgent and elective services to limit the number of patients in the clinics, provide paid sick leave to employees who have the coronavirus or symptoms of it and provide personal protective equipment recommended by the CDC to all employees.
“For an organization whose motto is ‘care no matter what’ and has a progressive image, they really weren’t taking care of its workers,” Nonni said. “Our aim is just to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for the way we were treated.”
In a statement, Lambrecht said the layoffs were a financial decision because of the pandemic.
“We, like all health care providers, are doing our part to conserve resources, focus on essential care, and doing everything we can to protect the safety of both our patients and our staff,” he said. “This also means that we have had to make difficult decisions, such as reductions in staff and hours, and reducing the pay for our CEO and senior staff.”
But Planned Parenthood has been accused of treating its employees poorly multiple times. In 2018, the abortion chain formally challenged Colorado employees’ attempt to form a union and demand better pay and working conditions. That same year, several employees of a Nashville Planned Parenthood voiced concerns that the abortion facility was putting money ahead of patients’ well-being.
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee herself, encouraged the Texas employees to contact her organization, And Then There Were None, which helps abortion workers leave the industry.
“To the Planned Parenthood workers who were just fired for voicing concerns over the dangerous protocols set by the abortion giant, we’ve got your back at And Then There Were None – Prolife Outreach. You can call us anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” she wrote in response to the local news report.