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Planned Parenthood Ottawa is located on Somerset Street. Image: Planned Parenthood/Provided.
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“We want to change the conversation around what it means to unionize,” said Executive Director, Jaisie Walker.

In Oct. 2021, Planned Parenthood Ottawa (PPO) announced that they would be unionizing. As of December 2022, they are the newest members of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 225.

In a press release forwarded to the Fulcrum, Education Coordinator Ceara McIntyre said, “We are hopeful that our workplace can be an example of how small non-profits who must navigate economic and political constraints can still support [their] workers and challenge systems of oppression for our staff.”

PPO first opened its doors in 1964, and has since been “working to advance a vision where accurate sexual and reproductive health support and services are comprehensive, accessible, and delivered equitably.”

“With extensive considerations made for quality of life and potential for professional growth, staff, the Union and Employer collaborated and agreed on personal leaves and accommodations such as improved wages and health benefits, menstrual and menopause, domestic violence, traditional Indigenous practices and educational leave.”

In an email to the Fulcrum, executive director Jaisie Walker stated that not much will change regarding client-facing programs, and that the changes will concern working conditions for their staff.

“The work that goes on behind the scenes will better solidify our commitments to equity and healthcare,” they said.

“Labour rights are reproductive rights. Frontline workers are systematically undervalued and exploited, often experiencing vicarious trauma and substandard living conditions despite providing crucial support and care in our communities. We are taking a firm stance against that and ensuring our staff are paid a living wage treated with humanity, care, and dignity.”

Walker explained that the unionization will protect the staff in various ways such as “clearer and improved guidelines around split shifts, overtime, and paid breaks, as well as new paid leaves that reflect the values we share.”

Additionally, Walker explained the importance of having a union created in a work environment with predominantly queer, trans, and racialized folks.

“We are disproportionately affected by economics (in) security and discrimination outside of our workplace. Having strong labour relations and improved living conditions is a part of our broader commitments to anti-racism, gender equity, and reproductive justice.”

While unionizing can often be a daunting process, trying to reach an agreement that benefits all parties, McIntyre stated in PPO’s press release that they “worked collaboratively with our COPE representatives and our employer to find creative solutions that meet our needs.”

Walker also mentioned that the collaborative commitment, as opposed to a competitive one, allowed them to reach an agreement both parties are happy with.

When asked what they would say to other organizations hoping to unionize, Walker explained that the pressures that the non-profit sector brings to employees can be overwhelming, stating “exhaustion does not lead to improved social impacts.”

“We want to change the conversation around what it means to unionize and how the Employer should show up in that process. “

Planned Parenthood Ottawa is located at 222 Somerset St. W. More information is available on their website.