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Why big tech companies are so silent on abortion rights

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade On Friday, companies in the tech industry rushed to send messages about their position. Apple said its health plan has long covered travel costs for out-of-state reproductive health care; Microsoft said it would expand its health coverage to include travel expenses for abortion; Google even said it would pay for employees to move in light of the ruling, no questions asked.

For the most part, these were quick and improvised policies aligning these companies with the right to choose and providing benefits that supported this position. But overall, their responses were not outright repudiations of the Supreme Court’s decision, let alone positions against any state that would seek to ban abortion.

These companies could take many stronger measures. For the most part, companies continue to donate to anti-abortion candidates, and Uber, Match and AT&T just last year funded a Republican group that lobbied for deer to be knocked down, as noted Popular information. Regulators have asked Google to change its search products to avoid recommending anti-abortion clinics – but the company has largely ignored the pleas. More urgently, major tech companies at every level have yet to announce any new measures or commitments to protect the data on our phones, which remains one of the biggest threats to abortion seekers.

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

More broadly, trade unions were willing to take a stronger stance and warn of the effects of this decision. The Communications Workers of America, which is organizing many tech retail workers, has warned of “devastating economic effects” for women, and the AFL-CIO president, the largest U.S. labor group, said the rule was “devastating.” a blow to working women and families across the country.

There is now a stark generational gap between workers who want their company involved in political affairs and those who want their company to remain silent. Workers under 45 are more than three times more likely to want their company to take a stand on political issues, according to research from employee analytics company Perceptyx. And whether companies speak up — or fail to do so in a timely manner, as Disney did with Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill — can have a big impact on the will of these young employees. to work somewhere.

“There’s a rush for talent, and people want to work for companies whose values, mission, and policies they believe in,” says Dan Bross, former senior director of business and corporate responsibility at Microsoft. .

But taking a stand on social issues has become more complicated for big tech companies, as their footprint has expanded beyond Silicon Valley and into states that continue to pass laws that run counter to their progressive values.

In the past few years alone, Apple has pioneered an Austin, Texas campus that could potentially house up to 15,000 people; Amazon has begun building a second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, where it already has 5,000 employees; Google has opened a cloud computing center in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is expected to reach 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 impose abortion restrictions. This can put companies in a tight spot, caught between employees who want to see action and politicians who are hostile to pushback.

“If it’s something that aligns with your values, you better be up front,” Emily Killham, director of research and insights at Perceptyx, says she would tell corporate clients. “If it’s not in line with the company’s stated values, it’s more possible for you to take a pass.”

When Disney chose to remain silent on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, the company faced internal backlash because “she has long been well known among employees for being very forward-looking. regarding the LGBTQ community”. But, Killham points out, Disney hasn’t made a statement on gun control, and “I haven’t seen their employees say they don’t take a stand on all progressive issues.”

One way companies feel safer taking a stand is when they do so as a group, says Bross, founding co-chair of the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, which brings together more than two dozen companies to advance LGBTI rights. “Companies that may not want to be so bold or are afraid of being held back 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 doing. In the case of abortion, tech companies have started adding benefits covering legal or out-of-state travel since Texas passed a restrictive abortion law last year. This made it easier for other companies to make the same commitments last week – a list compiled by The New York Times shows similar commitments not only from tech companies, but also from media groups, banks and retailers like Dick’s.

Killham says these quieter internal actions are often preferred. In states with abortion ban trigger laws, employees’ desire for private actions nearly doubled. “They mostly just wanted a statement,” Killham says. “They wanted to know where their company was on the matter.” And employees in those states also didn’t want to see their companies abandon them by pulling out of the region. “If you have a large contingent of employees in Texas, for example, you’re not really doing your people a favor by closing the office. This is not taking care of your employees.

This means that even if big tech companies continue to expand into states that restrict abortion rights, they may still be able to signal their progressive credentials to employees without preparing for political pushback.

Still, Bross says the way companies speak up — and the issues they choose to speak up about — has the potential to be shaped by what workers want far more today than they have in decades. past.

“The voice of employees has never been more important or louder than it is today,” he says.