The NewsGuild-CWA vowed today to continue to fight for access to abortion as a fundamental health care right and as a matter of personal choice.
“The Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade strikes a devastating blow to the right to privacy and the right of women and all people to control their own bodies and make decisions about their own health care,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “The court’s decision on abortion is likely the start of the destruction of many of our rights, including the right to marry.”
“We are encouraging our members to respond to this assault on their personal freedom and essential health care by doing what we do best: organizing to protect our rights in the workplace,” he said.
After a draft of the Court’s decision was leaked to Politico in May, Guild leaders said, “Comprehensive, reliable and affordable health care is a human right and access to abortion is a crucial component of comprehensive health care.”
NewsGuild members and staff have been meeting since then 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.
“It’s important for members to review their collective bargaining agreement to know their contractual rights and to understand any specific limitations that may have been bargained into the contract,” said Marian Needham, the Guild’s executive vice president. “However, members have a protected right to discuss any issues related to their union and their working conditions, within the context of what members are doing to address those issues. What could be more central than the scope of the medical coverage employees receive?”
Alongside concerns about diminishing rights, many of the Guild’s journalist members have expressed concern about their ability to speak openly about abortion access without being penalized by management for engaging publicly on a so-called “partisan issue.” When the draft decision was leaked, some employers sent notices asking people to refrain from tweeting about the decision. The federal National Labor Relations Act gives most private-sector workers the right to unionize and take collective action, including protecting the right of workers to speak publicly about their working conditions.
Tip: if you want to talk/tweet about abortion access and have it be protected [labor] speech: talk about it in the context of your healthcare benefits (which is a working condition and protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act) https://t.co/nkpj5LukQe— Jon Schleuss (@gaufre) May 12, 2022
When bargaining to protect abortion coverage many employers have the flexibility to modify health care plans and provide coverage for abortion services despite this harmful ruling by the Supreme Court. Health care plans that are governed by the federal ERISA law will be exempt from many state laws that restrict or prohibit abortion coverage, and in many circumstances employers with self-funded health care plans can modify coverage to protect this crucial health care right. The NewsGuild will be providing members and staff with guidance to determine what type of health care plans are provided to our members, in order to fight for the most expanded protections that are available.
The NewsGuild-CWA has long been an advocate for comprehensive health care that includes abortion, contraception and gender-affirming care. The Guild’s 1981 convention passed a resolution stating that abortion and contraception “should be a personal matter for a woman to decide.” That convention also passed a resolution calling on abortion to be removed from Canada’s Criminal Code.
Overturning the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade will disproportionately impact the lowest paid workers, Schleuss noted. It also will affect people living middle-class lives, many of whom will have to travel significant distances and spend more time and money to get the health care they need.
“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. This is an issue that spans class, race and gender. And we should fight for it as such,” Schleuss said.
About The NewsGuild-CWA
The NewsGuild’s members include journalists, interpreters, translators, workers at organizations dedicated to fighting for social justice and the staff of nonprofit organizations. The NewsGuild is a sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents workers in telecommunications and information technology, the airline industry, health care, public service and education, manufacturing and other fields.