While many Seattle-based companies met Roe’s downfall with new abortion benefits, Costco remained silent.


For hundreds of thousands of American workers employed by Seattle-area companies, decisions made on corporate boards here now significantly influence their access to abortion.

After the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, major Seattle employers announced they would provide abortion benefits, including reimbursement for abortion travel, often up to 100 miles from home person and gender-affirming care. Employers said they wanted to make sure their workers could access abortions, regardless of the law.

But their answers differ widely on what those benefits will look like and who will benefit from them.

Several companies declined to clarify whether abortion travel benefits will apply to part-time or contract workers. Starbucks said the benefit, which includes gender-affirming care, will be on the negotiating table with unionized stores. Other large employers in Seattle, which have a strong presence in states where abortion is illegal, have not offered travel allowances to their workers.

Issaquah-based Costco has not publicly announced plans to change its benefits in light of the reversal. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Similarly, Walmart, the largest employer in the United States, has not announced additional benefits. On Friday, a week after the reversal, Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said the company was taking employee feedback and revising its policies.

“We will share details of our actions as soon as possible, recognizing that time is running out,” McMillion wrote in a memo to staffers on Friday.

Due to federal regulations, all company health insurance benefits must include abortion coverage if the mother’s life is in danger due to the pregnancy.

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After the court ruling, major employers are divided on how far these benefits should be extended if the mother’s life is not in danger. Many offered travel compensation if the worker had to travel to access abortion services.

Among them were Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Alaska Airlines, Target and Nordstrom. They did not specify who these benefits apply to or whether there would be additional time off allowed for the trip.

Microsoft and Amazon declined to provide details. Like many companies, Amazon said in May it would offer travel reimbursement to employees who had to travel within 100 miles of their home for an abortion.

By their nature, employee benefits vary from company to company. Now, companies must consider the legal liabilities their new benefits may create, said Michelle Long, senior women’s health policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health care research organization. .

“Right now, there are so many more questions than there are answers,” Long said. “What legal implications does this have for the employer and what are the privacy concerns.”

After companies announced the new benefits, employees spoke up. Nearly 2,000 Amazon workers signed an open letter to the company saying the benefits of abortion were not enough.

Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard employees have scheduled a release for July 21, saying they demand a focus on protecting workers “from external threats like the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, and threats internal such as retaliation and harassment in the workplace,” the union said on Twitter.

While Google broadly offers compensation for abortion travel, it doesn’t include contract workers “who are the backbone of Google’s trillion-dollar empire,” according to the Alphabet Workers Union.

Nordstrom, Target and Alaska Airlines also wouldn’t say whether part-time or contract workers were eligible for abortion travel compensation.

T-Mobile and Starbucks said part-time workers are eligible for abortion travel compensation. Starbucks, however, clarified that its benefit will cover workers who work more than 20 hours per week. Rather than additional leave, the company said workers will have to use existing paid leave. The company also said it would include gender-affirming care as part of its new benefit.

“We were one of the first companies to offer comprehensive health benefits to eligible full-time and part-time partners – more than 30 years ago,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email. .

Starbucks added that it could not make any promises of benefit guarantees for unionized stores. He also said he would negotiate in good faith.

Sarah Pappin, who works at a unionized Starbucks store in downtown Seattle, said the new abortion and gender affirmation benefits won’t impact many baristas because the plan to Corporate health care is expensive and only a few can afford it.

Although legal and privacy issues can affect employee benefits, some companies may decide not to offer abortion benefits for ideological reasons, Long said. Other employers may review the legality of the benefits since, in some states, entities such as corporations can be sued for “aiding and abetting” an abortion.

“Some employers need to take the time to meet with their legal team to make sure they’re providing a benefit that they can’t be sued or held criminally responsible for,” Long said.

Boeing has announced sweeping travel health benefits for workers, trailing many of its Seattle peers. Boeing has a strong presence in states where abortion is no longer legal, such as Missouri.

Despite the company’s response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Long said there are still considerations employees should make. Among them, access to benefits in a way that does not follow both employers and workers, the presence of abortion clinics in the insurance network to prevent workers from paying out of pocket and the access to franchises since part of this sum must be paid out of pocket. The average deductible is $1,200, she said.

“Thinking about personal expenses is very important,” Long said.


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