For hundreds of thousands of American workers employed in Seattle businesses, boardroom decisions now significantly determine their access to abortion.
After the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, large Seattle employers announced they would provide abortion-related benefits, including reimbursement for abortions, often up to 100 miles from a person’s home, and gender-confirming assistance. Employers said they want to ensure that their employees can perform abortions regardless of the law.
But their answers differ greatly on what those benefits will look like and who will have them.
Several companies declined to say whether the abortion benefits would extend to female employees or contractors. Starbucks said the benefit, which includes gender-affirming benefits, will be on the negotiating table with store unions. Other large Seattle employers that operate in states where abortion is illegal did not offer travel reimbursement to their workers.
Issaquah-based Costco has not publicly announced plans to change its benefits in light of the repeal. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Similarly, Walmart, the largest employer in the US, has not announced additional benefits. On Friday, a week after the cancellation, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company was getting input from employees and was reviewing its policy.
“We will share details of our actions as soon as possible, recognizing that time is of the essence,” McMillion wrote in a memo to employees on Friday.
Under federal regulations, all corporate health insurance benefits must include coverage for abortions when the mother’s life is in danger because of the pregnancy.
After the court’s decision, major employers are divided on how far these benefits should be extended if the mother’s life is not at risk. Many offered travel reimbursement if the worker needed to travel to access abortion services.
Among them were Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Alaska Airlines, Target and Nordstrom. They did not specify to whom these benefits apply or whether additional travel time off will be granted.
Microsoft and Amazon declined to provide specifics. Like many other companies, Amazon said in May that it would offer travel reimbursement to employees who have to travel up to 100 miles from home for an abortion.
By nature, employee benefits vary from company to company. Companies must now consider the legal obligations their new benefits may create, said Michelle Long, senior policy analyst for women’s health at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health research organization.
“There are a lot more questions than answers right now,” Long said. “What legal implications does this have for the employer and as far as privacy is concerned.”
After the companies announced the new benefits, employees spoke out. Nearly 2,000 Amazon employees signed the open letter the companies said the abortion benefits weren’t enough.
Microsoft Activision Blizzard workers have planned a walkout on July 21, saying they want to focus on protecting workers “from external threats, such as the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, and internal threats, such as retaliation and workplace harassment,” the union said on Twitter.
While Google widely offers reimbursement for abortion travel, it does not include contract workers “who are the backbone of Google’s trillion-dollar empire,” according to Alphabet’s union.
Nordstrom, Target and Alaska Airlines also wouldn’t comment on whether part-time or contract workers can receive abortion travel benefits.
T-Mobile and Starbucks said part-time workers are eligible for abortion benefits. Starbucks, however, clarified that its benefit applies to workers who work more than 20 hours a week. Instead of adding time off, the company said workers will have to use existing paid time off. The company also said it would include gender-affirming care as part of its new care.
“We were one of the first companies to offer comprehensive health benefits to eligible full-time and part-time associates – more than 30 years ago,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email.
Starbucks added that it could not make any guarantees about the benefits for the combined stores. He also said that he would bargain in good faith.
Sarah Pappin, who works at a union Starbucks store in downtown Seattle, said the new abortion and gender-affirming benefits won’t affect many baristas because the company’s health plan is expensive and few can afford it.
While legal and privacy issues can affect employee benefits, some companies may choose not to offer abortion benefits for ideological reasons, Long said. Other employers may consider the legality of the benefits, as organizations such as companies can be held liable for “aiding and abetting” abortion in some states.
“Some employers have to take the time to meet with their legal team to make sure they’re offering benefits that they can’t be sued or prosecuted for,” Long said.
Boeing has announced extensive health benefits for workers, inferior to many counterparts in Seattle. Boeing has a large presence in states where abortion is no longer legal, such as Missouri.
Despite the corporate response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Long said employees still have to make decisions. These include access to care in a way that doesn’t track both employers and workers, having abortion clinics in the insurance network to avoid workers paying out-of-pocket, and access to deductibles because a portion of that amount must be paid out of pocket. own pocket. The average deductible is $1,200, she said.
“Thinking about out-of-pocket costs is very important,” Long said.