Abortion Rights Are Labor Rights. Jobs With Justice and NWLC Are Ready to Engage Together.
Jobs With Justice and the National Women’s Law Center are thrilled to announce our partnership—an outreach, education, and messaging campaign which aims to engage organized labor and worker justice groups in the fight for abortion access.
Because really, our fights are (just about) the same.
By design, anti-abortion efforts keep women and all people with the capacity for pregnancy from building and exercising power in our society and economy—just like anti-labor efforts disempower working people. The very same attempts to undermine, gut, and diminish unions show up in attacks on abortion.
For example, the exclusion of domestic workers and agricultural workers from the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 was a successful effort to divide the labor movement by race. Almost a century later, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn our constitutional right to abortion illustrates yet another targeted effort to divide and harm people along the lines of race, gender, and class.
Attacks on abortion access and worker justice also share tactical strategies that rely on manipulation and misinformation. A common union-busting tactic, “astroturf campaigns” are fake campaigns mimicking grassroots movements that recruit anti-union employees to union-bust by lying to their coworkers. Anti-abortion centers–sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers– are fake clinics that coerce pregnant people seeking abortions into carrying pregnancies to term through shame and deception.
Notice a pattern? That’s because we are fighting the same opponents.
The right to control what happens to your body is inextricably linked to the right to control your labor. In fact, this link is foundational to our Constitution’s 13th and 14th Amendments, which abolished slavery and established equal protection under the law. As legal scholar Michele Goodwin argues, these Reconstruction-era amendments directly responded to the sexual violence and reproductive bondage that Black women and girls faced under chattel slavery by enshrining inalienable rights to bodily autonomy, privacy, and freedom. The relationship between abortion access and worker justice is rooted in our nation’s history and embodied in our laws.
Now aside from the obvious overlaps between our two fights, there’s also the direct impact that abortion bans have on workers—especially workers who are lower-paid, people of color, women, immigrants, and LGBTQIA+ (the same ones who are increasingly leading and energizing our labor movements).
The impact of abortion restrictions include limiting workers’ ability to advance in the workplace; exposing them to the risk of pregnancy discrimination and discrimination based on gender stereotypes; and subjecting them to income loss or job loss, especially in low-paid jobs that are more likely to lack basic benefits like paid time off or control over work schedules.
One thing is clear: the fight for abortion access is the fight for labor justice. Many union leaders have acknowledged this and spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision striking down abortion rights. Now is the time to turn these words into actions, including organizing rank-and-file members, joining state and local fights for abortion access, and securing abortion workplace protections in collective bargaining agreements.
Over the course of the next few months, our two organizations will highlight the parallels between the reproductive rights and labor movements so that we can continue this fight together and stronger than ever.
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