Why are large tech corporations so silent about abortion rights

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, companies in the tech industry rushed to send messages about their location. Apple says its health plan has long covered travel for out-of-state reproductive health care; Microsoft says it will expand its health insurance coverage to cover travel costs for abortions; Google even said it would pay for employees to move on judgment, no questions asked.

For the most part, they have quick, interim policies that give these companies the power to choose and grant benefits that support that stance. But on the whole, their response was not outright rejection of the Supreme Court’s ruling, let alone against any state that wants to ban abortion.

There are many more solid steps these companies can take. For the most part, the companies continue to donate to anti-abortion candidates, and Uber, Match and AT&T, most recently last year, have funded a Republican group that has promoted Roe overturned, as noted by Popular information. Regulators have called on Google to change its Search products to avoid recommending anti-abortion clinics — but the company has ignored these calls. More urgently, the big tech companies on the board have yet to announce new steps or commitments to protect the data on our phones. some of the biggest threats for those seeking abortion.

“This is not a solution,” the Alphabet worker Union, an organization representing hundreds of Google employees and contractors, wrote on Twitter about Google’s offer to relocate.

Labor organizations in general are poised to take a firmer stance and warn of the impact of the ruling. Media Workers of America, which is in the process of organizing more tech retail workers, has warned of “devastating economic impacts” on women, and the president of AFL-CIO, the major union group United States, said the rule was “a devastating blow to working women and families across this country.”

There is now a marked generational divide between workers who want to see their companies get involved in political affairs and those who want to see their companies silenced. Follow research from employee analytics firm Perceptyx. And whether companies speak up – or not in a timely manner, like Disney did with the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill in Florida – there could be a material impact on whether these young employees want to work somewhere.

“There’s a lot of talent out there and people want to work for companies that have the values ​​and the mission and the policies they follow,” said Dan Bross, former senior director of business and corporate responsibility at Microsoft. trust.

But the stance on social issues has become increasingly complicated for the big tech companies as their footprints have expanded beyond Silicon Valley and into states that continue to pass laws that conflict with their own. their progressive values.

In just the past few years, Apple has broken ground on a campus in Austin, Texas, which can eventually hold up to 15,000 people; Amazon begins construction of a second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, where it already has 5,000 employees; Google has opened a cloud computing center in Raleigh, North Carolina, expected to attract 1,000 people; and Microsoft leased 50,000 square feet of office space in Miami, Florida.

These are all states where Republicans have or hope to introduce restrictions on abortion. That can leave companies in a quandary, caught between employees who want to see action and hostile politicians backing them up.

“If this is something that aligns with your values, then you better stand by it,” said Emily Killham, director of research and insights at Perceptyx. “If it doesn’t align with the stated company values, you’re more likely to pass.”

When Disney decided to keep quiet about Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, the company faced an internal backlash because “it’s long been known to employees for being so pushy about the community.” LGBTQ community”. However, Killham points out, Disney hasn’t made a statement on gun control, and “I haven’t seen their staff say they don’t take a stance on every evolving issue.”

Bross, founding co-chair of the Global Partnership for LGBTI Equality, says one way companies feel more secure in standing is when they do so as a group. “Companies that may not want to be bold or are concerned about being in the spotlight are often looking for opportunities to engage in coalition work,” says Bross.

They also look to the rest of the industry to see what their peers are up to. In the case of abortions, tech companies have begun to add benefits that cover legal or out-of-state travel expenses since Texas passed a law restricting abortions last year. That makes it easier for other companies to make similar commitments last week – a list compiled by New York Times shows similar commitments from not only tech companies but also media conglomerates, banks and retailers like Dick’s.

Killham says these quieter internal actions are often preferred. In states where abortion is prohibited, employees’ desire to act in private has nearly doubled. “They mostly just wanted a statement,” Killham said. “They want to know where their company stands in this regard.” And employees in those states also don’t want to see their companies abandon them by pulling out of the region. “For example, if you have a large staff in Texas, you’re not really doing people favors by closing the office. It’s not something that matters to your employees. “

That means that even as big tech companies continue to expand in states that are restricting abortion rights, they can still communicate proof of their progress to employees without incurring the penalty. political resistance.

However, Bross said that the way companies speak up – and the issues they choose to speak out about – is likely to be shaped by what workers want much more today than it did decades ago.

“Employees voices have never been more important or powerful than they are now,” he said.

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