when America Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade In June, many tech companies assured employees that they would help those who needed to travel to another state for abortion care. But at some companies, a major segment of their workforce is still shut out: gig workers.
On Thursday, 25 Democratic members of Congress, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Corey Bush of Missouri, sent a letter to the CEOs of Amazon, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Grubhub questioning the policy. Excluding gig workers would be bad for the company’s lowest-paid workers, they wrote, and called for gig workers to be reclassified as employees, with fringe benefits.
“Companies like Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, DoorDash and Amazon continue to misclassify workers as ‘independent contractors’ rather than employees, excluding them from the rights and benefits they are entitled to — like access to abortion care — —” Warren said. Those workers are more likely to “come from the communities most at risk of being harmed by the Supreme Court ruling,” the letter said.
Although some technical worker groups such as alphabet workers unionchallenging employers on fair abortion insurance, the first major congressional pressure on tech companies on the issue.
When asked about the letter, DoorDash spokesman Campbell Millum said the company believes every worker should choose to work as an employee or an independent contractor, and the company has advocated for portable benefits for independent contractors. Uber spokesman Ryan Thornton also spoke of the “unique flexibility” that gig workers have, including the ability to work for competing platforms.
Lyft, citing a blog post by its president of business affairs Kristin Sverchek, said the company has donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood and will continue to protect drivers from any laws that punish them for helping with abortions. Amazon spokesman Brad Glasser declined to comment on the letter; Grubhub did not comment.
When WIRED asked the company about their policy Roe v Wade After it was overturned, Amazon, DoorDash and Lyft admitted that their abortion travel benefits did not apply to their drivers, who at Amazon are a mix of gig and small third-party contractor employees. Uber did not respond. The letter from members of Congress on Thursday asked the company to respond by Oct. 22.
Gig workers are often paid far less than employees working for the same company, receive fewer benefits and face greater uncertainty about future earnings. At the same time, most people seeking abortions are low-income, largely due to limited access to contraception and family planning education.
Three-quarters of abortion patients live near or below the federal poverty line, while only 31% have private health insurance, new data from the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-research nonprofit, found. Another 35% are enrolled in Medicaid, which excludes most abortion coverage in 34 states.
The letter from lawmakers on Thursday noted that roughly two-thirds of Uber and Lyft drivers are people of color who face greater barriers to accessing abortion care. For Black and Indigenous peoples, the challenges are especially great. The authors argue that gig workers lack the “entrepreneurial controls” that define independent contractors, such as the ability to set their own rates, a position long supported by gig worker advocates.