US companies break long silence on abortion rights

“NEW GENERATIONAL THING”

The newfound boldness of US businesses is also tied to the fact that “in this country, people who are pro-choice are larger in number than people who are anti-abortion”, said Paharia.

The announcements by several leading companies are part of a “general trend” that has been developing for the past decade and “picked up steam” under former US president Donald Trump, she said.

Immigration, LGBT rights, gun regulations, the Black Lives Matter movement, voting rights – hot-button issues keep coming up, in a climate of heightened polarisation, and many companies have been pressured to respond by their employees.

“This is a new generational thing,” explained Mark Hass, a journalism and communication professor at Arizona State University. “The millennial generation, Gen Z are … increasingly concerned about who they work for, the values of those companies.”

“Companies like Apple, companies like Amazon, companies like Uber … rely on having the best employees,” he said. “So their employees are sort of their North Star,” or guiding force.

Paharia agreed: “It’s a tight labour market, and certain kinds of job skills are hard to come by.”

In a country where public confidence in elected officials has been eroding for many years, employees are also expecting more from their employers, she said.

Schweitzer made a distinction between the new economy’s flagship companies, whose employees are better educated than average and often able to work anywhere, and more traditional companies, which are sometimes located in more conservative regions of the United States.

The latter often have less mobile and less skilled workers, with a more limited influence on their employer.

“That’s going to be a big part of why tech companies, for example, are going to react more strongly to this than other companies who would rather stay out of it,” he said.

Unlike before, firms that have taken sides publicly have generally avoided backlash, calls for boycotts or smear campaigns.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio did introduce a Bill Tuesday that would prevent companies from receiving tax breaks on expenses tied to covering abortion-related travel, but the Bill is unlikely to pass.

However, “the groups that are interested in restricting abortion access, they’re a minority. And they seem to be winning on this issue right now”, said Schweitzer. “So I’m not surprised that they’re being a little bit quiet.”