Corporate America agrees over cultural war against Roe against Wade Roe v. Wade

ANDafter a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade leaked and signaled the imminent end of federal constitutional protection for abortion, a jet of companies slowly began publishing policies that ensure access to abortion for its employees. But while protection can make employees and consumers happy, it threatens retaliation from conservative lawmakers.

Citigroup, one of the largest banks in the U.S., has quietly started covering the travel expenses of employees who want to have an abortion, but are barred from making it in their state.

The privilege has not been made public. Instead, the company mentioned a change in benefits in a March shareholder application. After news outlets began reporting on the new benefit, the anger of Republicans began.

Conservatives in Congress have asked the House and Senate administrators to cancel a contract with a company that issues credit cards to lawmakers for flights related to business, office supplies and other goods. A Texas attorney general, furious with Citigroup, unveiled a bill that will prevent companies from doing business with Texas local governments if they give their employees abortion-related benefits.

“Citigroup has decided to favor awakened ideologues in its C-suite instead of obeying Texas law,” said Briscoe Cain, a Texas state representative who introduced the law, in statement. “We will pass the laws needed to prevent this misuse of shareholders’ money and hold Citigroup accountable for violating our state’s abortion laws.”

Citigroup has now been joined by Amazon, Apple, Yelp, Match Group, Tesla and Levi Strauss & Company, who have said they will offer travel assistance to employees located in countries that restrict abortions. Insiders at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs told news outlets that they were considering similar policies.

“I expect that there will be a significant shift and that leading companies will recognize that they need to protect the health care of their employees,” said Shelley Alpern, director of shareholder representation at Rhia Ventures. “Most companies would like to avoid taking a public stand on this issue because it is so controversial, but there are greater risks for companies when they do not protect access to the health care of their employees.”

In today’s heated political climate – and with mid-term elections – corporate America can expect a fiery response to any stance it takes toward Roe’s downfall. But given the widespread impact the end of Roe v. Wade will have on much of the country – 26 states will restrict access to abortion if the decision is overturned – companies are unlikely to be able to get away with not answering the question after the Supreme Court rules. your final decision.

Neeru Paharia, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough Business School, said people expect more from companies because confidence in the government has fallen.

“People are exercising their political will in the market,” she said. For consumers, buying from a company can be a symbolic sign of support. For employees, their identity may be tied to the ethical positions of the company in which they work.

Over the past few years, corporate America has begun to get louder on a variety of issues that have caught the attention of conservative lawmakers, including voting rights and LGBTQ + issues. But conservative politicians have become braver in fighting what they see as “awakened capitalism.”

While the GOP has historically positioned itself as a business-friendly and tax-reducing political party, conservative lawmakers have been encouraged to threaten and punish companies that talk about controversial issues.

Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis revoked special land use privileges he gave Disney for his Disney World theme park in Orlando after the company – in response to employee and consumer reactions – spoke out against state’s “don’t speak gay” law . This move seemed to surprise people. Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, tweetao that the move “calmed the government’s retaliation for freedom of speech. Bad looks for a conservative. ”

“It was really shocking,” Paharia said. “Now you have a situation where consumers and employees want companies to take a political stance, but then you have governments that might take revenge on them.”

When it comes to abortion, “although it may not be [explicitly] take side… [companies] take a position based on the type of benefits they will offer to their employees ”.

The threats made by lawmakers so far have not materialized, but the party seems serious in trying to punish companies in some way. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio unveiled a bill this week that will not allow companies to deduct abortion-related travel benefits as regular employee benefits when the company files taxes.

“Our tax law should be pro-family and promote a culture of life,” he said in a statement.

With these warnings, companies can try to silence the introduction of abortion or downplay their importance. When Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser – the first woman to run a major US bank – was asked at a shareholders’ meeting about a new abortion travel benefit, she said the benefit “is not intended to be a statement on a very sensitive issue”.

“We have followed our past practice here,” she said, adding that the company has covered reproductive health benefits for more than 20 years. Our practice has also been to ensure that our employees have the same health insurance, no matter where they live in the United States. ”

Jen Stark, senior director of corporate strategy at Tara Health Foundation, who helped coordinate the signatures of more than 180 executives in a 2019 anti-abortion ban, said the potential reaction from conservative lawmakers proves companies need to act on abortion restrictions in addition to mitigating effects for their employees. .

“They can buy all the plane tickets needed by their workers and that solves the immediate damage, but the structural shortcoming is the collateral damage,” she said. “The Supreme Court’s lawsuit didn’t happen in a balloon – you’re kind of walking on rubble.”

In addition to employee benefits, Stark advocated that companies use their lobbying powers and scrutinize political donations as state lawmakers prepare to limit abortions.

“We are all crying wolves at the moment. It’s here, but there was also a lot of headwind, “she said. “What matters is what companies can do with one stroke of the pen to mitigate the damage, but the bigger problem is getting out of this structural vortex we are in.”

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