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Amazon’s announcement that it will cover abortion-related travel costs for employees on Monday excludes many of company’s most vulnerable workers, some who are not technically employed by Amazon. The benefit, a reimbursement for all U.S. employees of up to $4,000 annually for travel expenses greater than 100 miles for abortions and non-life-threatening medical treatments, “applies only to US employees who are enrolled in employer-provided health care plans,” an Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard.
This means it excludes many of its poorest workers who stand to benefit most, such as Amazon’s 115,000 delivery drivers who drive Amazon emblazoned vans. These workers, who make the same day and next day deliveries Amazon is famous for, are contractors and not directly employed by Amazon, meaning they’re not eligible for the company’s abortion-related travel cost reimbursement. It also leaves out Amazon’s 2.9 million gig workers who work on the Amazon Flex app, and thousands of Amazon warehouse employees who work under 20 hours a week, on a so-called “flex schedule,” or receive Medicaid as their health insurance. Tens of thousands of these Amazon workers live in 13 “trigger” states, most in the South and Great Plains, where an abortion ban would immediately go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. On Monday, Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme County opinion indicating that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe. While the draft is not binding, a final decision could be released in months. Amazon is on track to become the largest employer in the United States in the next year or so, and is owned by one of the richest people in the world. The company plays a critical role in shaping the future of work. Its wages, policies, and benefits influence other low-wage employers around the country, as will its travel fund for abortion seekers. The company frequently touts health insurance, wages, and tuition assistance programs, but many of its benefits only apply to full-time employees.
Medicaid recipients who work at Amazon would be one of the most precarious groups not to benefit. According to data from the Government Accountability Office, thousands of Amazon employees rely on Medicaid for healthcare. Of six states that provided data to GAO in February 2020, Amazon ranked among the top ten employers of Medicaid recipients. Oklahoma, a trigger state that would ban abortion outright if Roe is overturned, ranks seventh out of all employers of Medicaid recipients in the state. Amazon workers who are Medicaid recipients in Oklahoma would not have access to Amazon’s travel fund. Part-time warehouse workers with less than 20 hours on the schedule, and workers on Flex schedules, which allow them to choose their own hours within a range of available start and finish times would also lack access to the benefit. Many of these workers are parents with childcare responsibilities. At BMH1, an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, where abortion access would decline by close to 40 percent in certain areas if Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, some workers are part-time and “flex” employees who don’t receive health insurance, sources say, making them ineligible for this benefit.
When it comes to who will lose abortion access in the case that Roe is overturned, experts agree that poor and working-class women in conservative states will suffer disproportionately. Many of these women would likely be Amazon delivery drivers and warehouse workers who pack and deliver Amazon packages, but don’t stand to qualify from the tech behemoth’s new benefit.
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