Reproductive justice is a labor issue


As the Supreme Court prepares to upend nearly 50 years of legal precedent in overturning Roe v. Wade, it’s important to take stock in what is really transpiring on our highest court and how it connects to the labor movement’s never ending struggle for economic justice and freedom.

First of all, reproductive rights are workers’ rights. Period. The single biggest determinant of a woman’s economic future is when and if she becomes pregnant. This choice impacts her financial well-being, job security, participation in the workforce and educational attainment, to name just a few. 

Second, this imminent elimination of women’s rights that have been federally protected since 1973 will particularly impact communities of color, LGTBQ+ individuals, and people just struggling to get by because it will embolden over half of U.S. states that are currently poised to ban or criminalize abortion. Without Roe, a future Congress and president could pass a nationwide ban, or restrictions that apply in every state. Too many people today already struggle to access the full suite of reproductive healthcare, and this rollback will make that reality, and the economic dangers it entails, so much worse. The history of our country has already shown us that legislators or judges cannot ban abortion, they can only make it inaccessible and more dangerous for those who cannot afford it.

Now, let’s look at what this means for the bodily autonomy and personal liberty of more than half of the U.S. population. For a moment, assume that we are all grounded with the facts about pregnancy being such a major determinant of the economic future of those who can get pregnant. And then let’s imagine that the federal government all of a sudden changes course after five decades and takes away the choice you’ve always had about your own reproductive options, which they are now poised to do. This is clearly about power and control, and in each of the states who have already passed bans and on the Supreme Court itself, we see these efforts led by those who CANNOT become pregnant. Do the math about what’s really happening, and who the winners and the losers are.

After working in coalition with unions and community partners to defend access to reproductive healthcare on the ballot and expand reproductive healthcare for working people in the Oregon Legislature, I was proud to see the delegates of the 2022 Oregon AFL-CIO Convention unanimously pass Resolution 17 titled “Reproductive Justice and Reproductive Rights Are Workers’ Rights” in March. By affirming these truths and calling the Oregon labor movement to action in this resolution, we are rightly and specifically helping to educate union members about the interconnectedness and inseparability between reproductive, economic, and workplace rights. This is just one step, but a significant and important one for our movement. And while the recent leaked draft overturning Roe came as no surprise, it surely reminds us of the economic stakes and devastating impacts at play. 

We must never lose sight of the ways in which our struggles for economic, social, and racial justice are interconnected – or the ways in which the wealthy and well-connected aim to divide us. The same ideologues and extremists leading the effort to overturn Roe are the ones fighting to bust unions and suppress the right to vote in the South.   

The beauty of the labor movement is the through line of solidarity. And when women, people of color, our unions, immigrants, workers, or the LGBTQ+ community are under attack, it’s our responsibility to STAND UP and FIGHT BACK. See you in the streets!

The Oregon AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions. GRAHAM TRAINOR is its president.



  1. Kudos, Brother Trainor! I have always been dumbfounded that union leadership has not taken a more intersectional approach to reproductive justice as they do with civil rights, housing rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, etc. This is about the dignity of human beings to exercise their own rights and say in matters involving work, pay, voting, who to love, how to love, and the consequences of that love. I am hoping we see other labor leaders follow your lead in standing up to paternalistic, oppressive forces taking away our human rights. Glad to see you stand up for the 77 million women, organized or not, in the US workforce!

  2. I, too, thank brother Trainor for this. I was unhappy to not see union banners at the Planned Parenthood rallies last weekend.. I hope our unions will follow his lead and get loud and visible on this.
    The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice is calling for national demonstrations on the day the Supreme Court decision drops.
    I’m a retired member of IAM 751


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