Hundreds of Google employees are petitioning the company to extend its abortion benefits to contract workers.
Google parent company Alphabet Inc. had pledged to pay travel and other health-care costs for employees seeking an out-of-state abortion and to help some workers relocate after the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the constitutional right to an abortion.
The benefits for abortion services offered by Google and other technology companies don’t cover contract workers, who often get paid less and have fewer perks than full-time employees. A letter signed by more than 650 employees and sent this week to Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai and other Alphabet executives calls for the inclusion of contractors in those benefits.
Read: Employers facing hurdles covering abortion travel costs
The petition was organized by members of the Alphabet Workers Union, a labour union that’s been trying to gain traction inside the company. Google declined to comment about the petition.
In other news, Walmart is expanding its abortion coverage for employees after staying largely mum on the issue following the Supreme Court ruling.
In a memo sent to employees on Friday, the company said its health-care plans will now cover abortion for employees when there is a health risk to the mother, in cases of rape or incest, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or lack of fetal viability.
Previously, the company’s benefits plan had covered abortion only in cases “when the health of the mother would be in danger if the fetus were carried to term, the fetus could not survive the birthing process or death would be imminent after birth,” according to a copy of the policy viewed by The Associated Press but not confirmed by Walmart.
Read: A quarter of U.S. employers considering expansion of abortion services coverage: survey
Donna Morris, the retailer’s chief people officer, said in the memo to staff that the new policy will also offer travel support for workers — as well as their dependants — seeking abortions covered under its health-care plans, so they can access services that aren’t available within 100 miles of their locations.
Walmart employs nearly 1.6 million people in the U.S. In Arkansas, where the company is based, abortion is banned under all circumstances unless the procedure is needed to protect the life of the mother in a medical emergency. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. That means under the revised policy, Walmart employees can travel out of the state — or any other state that bans abortion for rape and incest — to obtain the procedure through the retailer’s health plans.
Several companies — including American Express Co., the Bank of America Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. — have said they will cover travel costs for their employees in the aftermath of the high court ruling that tossed out Roe v. Wade, including elective abortions. But a Walmart spokesperson didn’t immediately reply for a request for comment on whether any of the company’s revised policy will cover elective abortions as well.
Read: U.S. abortion ruling thrusts employers into divisive arena
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s simply not far enough for a company that employs that many women,” said Bianca Agustin, director of corporate accountability program for United for Respect, a group that advocates for Walmart workers. She said the organization will be incorporating “safe abortions” for employees in their list of demands pressing the company for better pay and benefits.
The careful expansion of Walmart’s abortion policy shows it’s attempting to balance different pressures and opinions from employees, investors and other stakeholders, said Vanessa Burbano, a professor at Columbia University’s business school who researches how companies take social stances. “It’s much trickier than a lot of people initially think it is. It’s not like all of their stakeholders are of the same opinion on any of these issues, which is what makes it so challenging. They’re trying to figure out how to thread that needle.”
In the memo sent Friday, Walmart said it will also launch a centre that provides fertility services to employees, such as in vitro fertilization. Additionally, it vowed to add surrogacy support and increase its financial aid for adoptions from $5,000 to $20,000. In June, Walmart said it would expand its offering of doulas to address racial disparities in maternal care.
Read: U.S. employers enhancing benefits plans with travel coverage for abortion