Big Tech’s abortion travel policy does nothing for contractor staff

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling overnight transformed many states where access to abortion existed to states where it is today in reality † Congressional Democrats have wasted nearly 50 years of opportunities to strengthen the right to bodily autonomy, and now in the wake of a post-roe Across the country, major companies have tried to conduct some form of triage, but their solutions, particularly at tech companies, often exclude the vast majority of their workforce.

Alphabet, Meta, Amazon, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have all recently announced or reiterated policies for employees that would cover or offset the cost of traveling abroad to seek medical care, including abortions. While VoxEmily Stewart, rightly so, no one should have to choose between a forced pregnancy or reporting an abortion to their employer’s HR department, the situation is considerably grimmer for the hordes of contractors who keep the same companies afloat and haven’t been given the same options.

What is at stake here is a huge number of workers. In many cases, much more than the number of full-timers that these companies have on the payroll. The most recent estimate, in 2020, was for content moderators on Facebook — a number that probably doesn’t include moderators on Meta’s other social platforms, and almost certainly excludes temporary workers in the company’s many offices and data centers. (The full-time staff, meanwhile, are discussing abortion-related issues at work.)

Amazon has boasted of creating 158,000 for its network of delivery service providers. Again, this doesn’t include drivers contracted through Amazon’s internal Flex program, data center and office support staff, or those who perform maintenance in the company’s more than 1,100 warehouses. Alphabet was the subject of critical reporting in 2018, with the majority of employees at the tech giant not being employees. The number of temporary employees, vendors or contractors (TVCs in company language) is not reported publicly, but is estimated at .

For “gig” companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, the balance is even more skewed. Based on the roughly 30,000 employees, estimates of the number of contractor drivers working for Uber range from up to , with about one million in the US. The most quoted claim is that Lyft has about 1.4 million drivers in the US and Toronto — though the source of that figure is close and will likely be much larger now. DoorDash’s 6,000 employees are dwarfed by a claimed fleet of .

It is also highly likely (though unclear at this time) that this policy will not apply to part-time employees, as these travel benefits are administered through employer-provided healthcare, which part-time employees are typically not eligible for. For this reason, it is also unclear whether these companies had any input in creating these reimbursement programs, or whether the credit belongs to their respective health insurers. Meta, Amazon, Alphabet and Uber did not respond to requests for comment, while Lyft and DoorDash declined to answer specific questions and circulated existing statements to the press.

A Meta spokesperson told Engadget: “We plan to offer travel reimbursements, to the extent permitted by law, for employees who need them to access out-of-state health care and reproductive services. We have no choice but to do so given the legal complexities.” that’s involved.”

“It is paramount that all DoorDash employees and their family members covered by our health plans have fair and timely access to safe health care,” a spokesperson told Engadget. traveling out of state for abortion-related care.”

“Lyft’s US medical benefits plan includes coverage for elective abortion and reimbursement of travel expenses if an employee has to travel more than 100 miles for a network provider,” Lyft President of Business Affairs Kristin Sverchek wrote in a blog published June 24. When asked if the company is doing anything for its driver fleet, a spokesperson instead pointed to a section of the same blog post in which Sverchek wrote that the company “is working with [Planned Parenthood] to test a Women’s Transportation Access program.” No recent mentions of or the phrase “” appear anywhere in Planned Parenthood’s press releases, and the organization has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. Lyft would did not comment on who the program would cover, what access it would provide, what funding it had, where it would operate or when it was expected to launch.

The hollowness of these gestures toward abortion has not escaped some workers’ attention. The Alphabet Workers Union, a subgroup of the Communications Workers of America, released a statement yesterday criticizing their eponymous company for failing to extend this new policy to temporary workers. Google announced that full-time workers would have access to relocation services after the destruction of Roe v. Wade. What this does not meet are the needs of Alphabet’s hundreds of thousands of temps, suppliers and contract workers, who are more likely to live in states with limited access to abortion, more likely to be workers of color,” wrote Parul Koul, an AGU member and software engineer at Google.

What has been widely heard in recent decades about the Republican project to restrict access to abortion is that new barriers – closing clinics, introducing maternity bans, and now the overthrow or won’t prevent abortions from being performed, they’re just making it safe abortions. Current projections suggest that the number of abortions is likely to continue to decline. It is almost certain that the bulk of the burden of forced pregnancy will fall on those who are economically disadvantaged: those without stable work, good wages, employer-sponsored health care or the time and savings to leave work to to seek abortion out of state. In many cases, the situation described here exactly overlaps with the circumstances of contractors that this new compensation policy implicitly excludes, and in a sense it makes these companies complicit in the dual access that Republicans have largely managed to achieve. Technology companies can’t promise to build for the future while a large number of their workforce is stuck in 1972.

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