The Guttmacher Institute, the world’s leading reproductive rights think tank, was a tense place to work. Hybrid working hours. Microsoft Teams health checks.
As the Supreme Court moved closer to plunging America into an abortion access crisis, making Guttmacher’s work all the more vital, that tension came to a head: In May, the staff went public with their plans to unionize. In July, the union, which represents more than 60 employees, won its right to negotiate a contract with the institute in a near-unanimous election. Members did not expect subsequent contract negotiations to be easy or even quick, but expected to be civil, with like-minded people on both sides, due to the generally progressive political lean of the institute.
Instead, members of Guttmacher Employees United (GEU) have found themselves battling an anti-union law firm that donates to politicians who advocate for forced birth policies.
After the union went public in May, Guttmacher retained notorious pro-business law firm Jackson Lewis PC to represent him as he clashed with his employees. Between his own political action committee and individual employee donations, Jackson Lewis has sent more than $336,000 to anti-abortion politicians over the past decade, according to federal donation records reviewed by Jezebel. This means that, like the Guttmacher Institute spend the millions he raised for his pro-reproductive health care mission, he also spends significant funds to retain the services of an anti-union law firm that could turn around and donate to the very people who seek to obstruct Guttmacher’s mission .
“It’s quite disturbing to think that Guttmacher’s management is spending so much money on these lawyers, and where will that money end up? In the pockets of anti-abortion advocates and politicians who hurt people who need abortions,” a GEU member, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution for speaking publicly, told Jezebel.
Jackson Lewis did not respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.
Since 2012, Jackson Lewis PC PAC has donated nearly a quarter of a million dollars to campaigns or PACs supporting Republican candidates, although he has also donated more to Democratic candidates. For several years, PAC has granted the maximum amount authorized ($15,000) to Republican National Congress and National Republican Senate Committees. Meanwhile, Jackson Lewis employees have donated nearly $100,000 directly to Republican candidates over the past decade. They particularly liked Mitt Romney, donating nearly $12,000 to his presidential campaign. Romney, who pioneered the state-level health care program on which Obamacare was modeled, used to believe in choice, but as governor of Massachusetts he vetoed a bill this would have expanded access to emergency contraception. Currently, Romney is a co-sponsor on the National Abortion Ban Bill for 20 weeks in the Senate.
Jackson Lewis employees also donated $10,000 to the Nebraska Republican Party, which fielded candidates as pro-death penalty and Anti-abortion Governor Pete Ricketts and Senator Ben Sasse, who reintroduced a invoice to “protect” so-called “born alive” fetuses (a non-medical term for fetuses born during an abortion) in 2021.
WinRed, the Republican answer to Democrats’ ActBlue fundraising platform, was also a favorite of Jackson Lewis employees. The firm’s lawyers, secretaries, assistants, paralegals, HR managers and bill coordinators have all donated through the platform. Their contributions went toward committee fundraising for Donald Trump, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), among others , who, it goes without saying, are adamant anti-abortion politicians. Jackson Lewis employees have also contributed to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), whose willingness to believing an obvious lie by Brett Kavanaugh contributed to the overthrow of Roe vs. Wade.
The company PAC, like all political action committees, seeks to gain favors or results through its donations. To that end, donating to Democrats and Republicans makes sense for a massive company that regularly interacts with judges on all sides. And, like all great business law firms, Jackson Lewis attorneys have worked on cases from across the political spectrum: an attorney has served on the Supreme Court amicus brief as one of more than 360 legal professionals who have had abortions and have written in support of abortion providers in a 2019 case. It’s no surprise that a law firm like Jackson Lewis would donate to both parties, but that explanation does little to appease the rambling group of nonprofit workers who wanted a say. about how their workplace was governed.
Workers know they’re in for a metaphorically bloody fight when management hires Jackson Lewis. “When you hire Jackson Lewis…it’s like putting up a flag and saying, ‘Unions are not welcome here.’ You are going to fight hard against the union and you are ready to do whatever it takes to defeat the efforts of workers,” John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at the University of Washington, told Jezebel. ‘State of San Francisco. They also know Jackson Lewis’s services don’t come cheap. (When the University of New Mexico hired Jackson Lewis after its staff’s union campaign, Jackson Lewis’ attorneys offered a prices ranging from $275 to $540 per billable hour, depending on a Written agreement. However, the company often gives discounts to nonprofit organizations, which is the Guttmacher Institute.)
On August 30, GEU, a subsidiary of SIEPB Local 153, sent a letter to Guttmacher asking the organization to sever ties with Jackson Lewis. In a letter to Jezebel, the union called Jackson Lewis’ involvement “hypocritical and antithetical” to the organization’s mission. “By retaining a law firm notorious for its anti-union tactics and its conservative, anti-choice financial ties, Guttmacher management sends a message to staff that it values the repression of our rights as workers over labor. ‘broader effort to make sexual and reproductive health care accessible to all,’ the letter read in part. “Do the right thing: fire Jackson Lewis now and end Guttmacher’s financial ties to the war on reproductive rights.”
(Jackson Lewis is the outside recruitment agency for G/O Media, owner of Jezebel. He has not represented G/O Media on union matters.)
The Guttmacher Institute said the organization’s progressive mission is not influenced by lawyers. “Lawyers do not determine our values and positions on any issue, including unionization. Our CEO has always been very clear that Guttmacher management supports our people’s desire to organize and that our management looks forward to working with the union, and this position has guided the relationship with Jackson Lewis,” said a Guttmacher spokesperson told Jezebel via email. On a Friday, the union announced a public petition against Jackson Lewis.
The Reproductive Health Think Tank was founded in 1968 and led by Dr. Alan F. Guttmacher, following two presidents who sought to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies. Since then, her work has been the pinnacle of social science research and analysis for the “promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights”.
Over the past few decades, Guttmacher has suffered from a classic nonprofit problem: many highly paid white executives and many underpaid employees. In December 2021, workers went public with allegations of a “toxic” work culture plagued by racism at Guttmacher. The institute’s political team was made up entirely of white women and hadn’t had a black or Latinx member in at least a decade, Prism reported. A worker told Prism that the organization was in a “death spiral” and was risking its reputation because it would not scale. (In June, Guttmacher shared a statement about his racial equity efforts.)
For Guttmacher employees, management’s reaction to the union campaign was the last straw. Just hours after the union won its election, a key union organizer was fired. The union supports another employee was wrongfully terminated also for their union efforts. (Guttmacher “categorically den[ied] the allegation of retaliation. Jackson Lewis will apparently continue to represent Guttmacher’s management ahead of contract negotiations. It should also be noted that the company’s opposition to organized labor is reflected in its political contributions to Republican candidates.
Despite its internal struggles, Glassdoor’s critics are rough—Guttmacher retains his public perception as a preeminent research institution in reproductive health, so much so that in February, the philanthropist Mackenzie Scott donated $15 million to the organization to continue his work. But as its employees continue to produce report after report in support of sexual and reproductive equality around the world, the think tank’s top brass have gone to bed with Jackson Lewis, a law firm whose political donations show an ideological disregard for Guttmacher’s work.