Amazon has promised to help workers get abortions. Some workers say it hasn't gone far enough

Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

Amazon employees are calling on the company to get more involved in protecting abortion access, including by ending political donations to groups that oppose abortion, organizing its own protests against the Supreme Court’s ruling and helping all employees pay for travel in order to get safe abortion care.

Nearly 2,000 employees have signed an open letter to Amazon leadership, calling on the company to “use Amazon’s voice to publicly and unequivocally denounce” the high court’s decision. On Friday, some workers called out sick in protest, hoping to pressure the company.

Amazon, like many of the nation’s largest employers, has said it will cover travel expenses for medical procedures, including abortion care, that aren’t available in an employee’s home state.

But in the week since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, removing constitutional protections for abortion access that had been in place for nearly half a century, some workers and activists point out that those funds won’t extend to every Amazon worker.

It’s “common-sense policy” for companies to ensure workers won’t have a “huge disruption in their life” following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, said Liza Fuentes, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that promotes sexual and reproductive rights.

“That’s a huge benefit for those workers,“ she said. “However, what we know is that many people who may need abortion care don’t work for those companies.”

In Washington, many of the state’s largest employers — Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Alaska, T-Mobile, Zillow, Redfin, Starbucks and others — committed to covering travel costs for employees who live in places where abortion services aren’t available. Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, said Friday it is weighing potential actions and figuring out the best path forward, according to Bloomberg. Starbucks said it could not “make promises of guarantees about any benefits” for workers at unionized stores.

Amazon announced in May it would offer up to $4,000 for travel if care is not available virtually or within 100 miles of an employee’s home.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in nearly half the states. For a company like Amazon, which has corporate offices and warehouses across the country, the funds are meant to help workers who may need to travel to access care.

Amazon’s policy, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, is available for employees and their dependents covered by two company-offered health plans. The funds are available to both corporate and warehouse workers, but not independent contractors.

Workers are asking the company to “broaden the scope” of the benefit to encompass all Amazon employees, including contractors. Amazon has a network of delivery service partners, who help drop off packages to customers’ doorsteps and operate as independent contractors, as well as Flex drivers — gig workers who use their own vehicle to make deliveries for the company.

Amazon is not the only company that is facing pressure to expand its benefits. The Alphabet Workers Union, which represents some workers at Google’s parent company Alphabet, said this week Google is offering support for corporate employees but not “the 100,000+ contractors who are the backbone of Google’s trillion-dollar empire.”

“Workers need true support, not performative headlines and fine legal print telling them why they aren’t eligible for benefits,” the California Labor Federation, a network of labor unions, tweeted this week.

Google did not respond to requests for comment. Amazon declined to answer questions on the specifics of its policy, including who would have access to the benefit and whether warehouse associates would be given paid time off to travel for medical procedures.


In the open letter, employees also asked Amazon to expand access to services that would “safeguard and empower abortion seekers,” including abortion pills and abortion-related care. The workers also pushed back on Amazon’s political donations, calling on it to audit all political donations and cease any contributions to committees that oppose abortion.

A shareholder proposal asking for a report on Amazon’s lobbying activities and expenditures did not pass the company’s annual meeting in May. The company spent $18.7 million on federal lobbying in 2020 and was the largest corporate spender for the first half of 2021, according to the proposal.

Amazon’s board of directors recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, saying Amazon has processes in place to provide oversight of its public policy activities. “While we may not agree with every position of every organization that we support, we believe that our support will help advance those policy objectives that are aligned with our interests,” the board of directors wrote.

The proposal narrowly failed with 47% of shareholders voting in support.

In the open letter this week, employees also called on Amazon to donate to organizations that are working to expand abortion access, expand remote work and options for employees to relocate from states with new abortion restrictions, and cease expansion plans in states that are threatening to ban abortion.

The workers are also asking Amazon to remove any product offerings that could encourage hate speech or violence toward abortion seekers.

The call to action comes at the same time corporate employees are ramping up efforts to pressure Amazon to stop selling books that activists say are transphobic, including titles like “Desist, Detrans & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult” and “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.”

A worker-led group, called No Hate At Amazon, organized a “die-in” in June, where employees disrupted a company-sponsored Pride event to call for the removal of the books. Wrapped in pink, blue and white flags, a group of people lay down on the ground in front of a stage where representatives from Glamazon, an Amazon affinity group for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, were delivering speeches under a Pride flag.

This week, in an internal messaging board, an employee again asked Amazon to review “Irreversible Damage” for removal and to look into why the book was approved in the first place.

Like it has said in the past, Amazon responded that the book does not violate its guidelines.

On Friday, workers fighting to remove the books and for reproductive rights put up out-of-office messages and sent emails to team members explaining why they took the day off.


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