The abortion loophole DoorDash and Google won't close

The abortion loophole DoorDash and Google won’t close

On June 24, the day the Supreme Court formally overturned Roe v. Wade, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff attempted to reassure Salesforce workers outside of San Francisco and the Bay Area that he would help defend their reproductive rights.

“I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what. Salesforce moves employees when they feel threatened or experience discrimination,” Benioff tweeted. “To our Ohana — we always make sure you have the best benefits & care, [and] we will always have your back. Always.”

Because basic health care services are so often tied to employment status in America, unlike in much of the rest of the developed world, employers here have a uniquely large role in protecting basic health care for their labor force. Over the past few months, starting when a draft document of the Roe v. Wade decision was leaked, stories in the press have piled up about how dozens of well-known American companies are offering abortion service coverage including, but not limited to, travel expenses for people who need to leave their home state for a legal abortion. But those public statements don’t tell the full story. Benioff’s “Ohana,” a Hawaiian word for family or community, doesn’t appear to include a number of Salesforce workers: the contractors who work full-time for the company, but are legally employed by third parties.

An aerial view shows a statue of Eureka, part of the Pioneer Monument, across from City Hall in San Francisco on May 22, 2020. 

JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Most of America’s best-known companies rely heavily on contracted workers, either independent contractors who receive 1099s or full-time employees of outside staffing agencies. It’s impossible to know the exact number of contractors nationwide, though it’s certainly in the millions. In fact, contracted workers are almost always excluded from company head counts, despite their invaluable role in keeping those companies afloat. Google, for instance, refers to its directly employed workers as “Googlers,” and its contractors as “TVCs” (temporary, vendor or contractor). One 2021 estimate showed that Google actually has more TVCs than Googlers.

“There’s often white-collar tech workers doing the exact same work — a contractor and an employee sitting right next to each other, working on the same projects — but with different employers of record and different pay and benefits,” says Jessie HF Hammerling, a researcher at the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

Because third-party agencies fly under the radar, they have far fewer public incentives to treat their workers as well as people directly employed by, for instance, a company like Google. That results in serious disparities: lower salaries, less vacation, less overtime, fewer career advancement options and less robust health care options, even between people doing identical tasks and working identical hours. Worse, according to a study by TechEquity Collaborative, contracted employees “are more likely to belong to underrepresented racial, ethnic, and gender groups than the direct tech workforce,” a trend that almost certainly applies beyond the tech world.

A spokesperson for the Alphabet Workers Union, which represents both contractors and employees at Google, confirmed to SFGATE that the abortion benefits the company recently offered to employees, including paying for travel to access legal abortions, don’t extend to TVCs. Google ignored repeated requests for comment.

A woman holds an "Abortion is Health Care" sign as abortion rights activists rally outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 24, 2022, in protest of the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the Supreme Court.

A woman holds an “Abortion is Health Care” sign as abortion rights activists rally outside the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 24, 2022, in protest of the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the Supreme Court.

RONDA CHURCHILL/AFP via Getty Images

SFGATE also reached out to 24 other companies — some based in the Bay Area, some based in California, some based elsewhere in the United States, all of whom have touted their commitment to abortion services. We asked them a simple question: Are they committing those same resources to their contractors?


Only one of the 25 companies we reached out to, Patagonia, affirmed they’re providing abortion care coverage to all of their contributors. That’s because they hire part-time and temp workers as legal employees, rather than contractors. 

Below, we’ve listed every company’s responses, or lack thereof, in an attempt to illustrate a growing health care crisis in a post-Roe America: As long as companies outsource vital work to nebulous third-party agencies, they’re also outsourcing abortion rights and protections to those third-party agencies, too.

“There’s a lot of visibility and a lot of public scrutiny of what a big company like Google or Apple does, but not a lot of visibility for what its contractor companies are doing,” Hammerling tells SFGATE. “There’s less pressure on them, or it’s harder to exert pressure on them, to improve their conditions.”

Adobe Systems' world headquarters in downtown San Jose, Calif.

Adobe Systems’ world headquarters in downtown San Jose, Calif.

Lisa Werner/Getty Images

Adobe

A spokesperson for Adobe did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Amazon

A spokesperson for Amazon did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Apple

A spokesperson for Apple did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Box

A spokesperson for Box confirmed that “this benefit will not be extended to contractors and third-party employees.”

Disney

A spokesperson for Disney did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

DoorDash 

A spokesperson confirmed that “independent contractors” — namely delivery drivers — are not eligible for abortion coverage through DoorDash. (DoorDash does not regularly release statistics on how many “Dashers” it has, but rough estimates indicate there are millions in the United States and Canada alone.)

The sign on the Google offices in New York on Dec. 26, 2020.

The sign on the Google offices in New York on Dec. 26, 2020.

Richard B. Levine / Sipa USA 2020

Google

“Google refused to include the tens of thousands of temporary, vendor, and contract (TVC) workers, who make up nearly half of the company’s workforce, in these benefits,” according to a spokesperson for the Alphabet Workers Union, which represents some Google employees and contractors. Google did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 

HP

A spokesperson sent a statement emphasizing its “commitment to gender equality and access to healthcare services” for HP’s directly employed workers, but declined to comment on whether contractors were included in abortion coverage.

Impossible Foods

A spokesperson for Impossible Foods did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Intuit

A spokesperson sent a statement about out-of-state reproductive health services for Intuit’s directly employed workers, but declined to comment on whether contractors were included in abortion coverage.

Levi’s

A spokesperson for Levi’s did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In this file photo, the Lyft logo is shown on the screen at the Nasdaq offices in Times Square on March 29, 2019, in New York.

In this file photo, the Lyft logo is shown on the screen at the Nasdaq offices in Times Square on March 29, 2019, in New York.

Don Emmert / AFP via Getty Images 2019

Lyft 

A spokesperson for Lyft sent a previously released statement about abortion coverage for directly employed Lyft workers, but noted that drivers do not receive those benefits. There are, conservatively, at least one million Lyft drivers in the United States.

Match Group

A spokesperson for Match Group, which includes Tinder, Hinge and Match.com, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Meta 

A spokesperson for Meta declined to comment on whether contractors were included in abortion coverage.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, the Microsoft company logo is displayed at its offices in Sydney.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, the Microsoft company logo is displayed at its offices in Sydney.

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Microsoft 

A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment on whether contractors were included in abortion coverage.

Netflix

A spokesperson confirmed that abortion coverage only applies to workers employed directly by Netflix. 

Nike

A spokesperson sent a previously released statement about health care for Nike’s directly employed workers, but declined to comment on whether contractors were included in abortion coverage.

Patagonia

Patagonia was the only company to answer our questions, while noting that they don’t use “permalance” contracted workers.

“All those benefits are available for full- and part-time employees, whether they are regular (employed on an ongoing basis) or what we call ‘fixed term,’ which are employees that have a known termination date,” a spokesperson wrote.

PayPal

A spokesperson for PayPal asked to talk on the phone, then never replied to repeated requests for comment.

Reddit

A spokesperson for Reddit confirmed that abortion coverage only applies to workers employed directly by Reddit. 

People are seen inside the Salesforce Tower on Dec. 1, 2020, in San Francisco.

People are seen inside the Salesforce Tower on Dec. 1, 2020, in San Francisco.

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Salesforce

A spokesperson for Salesforce referred SFGATE to the following tweet from CEO Marc Benioff:

“I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees—no matter what. Salesforce moves employees when they feel threatened or experience discrimination. To our Ohana—we always make sure you have the best benefits & care, & we will always have your back. Always.”

SFGATE repeatedly followed up to ask if Benioff was including contracted workers as “employees,” or “Ohana,” in his statement. We did not hear back.

Starbucks

A spokesperson wrote that franchised Starbucks stores (of which there are about 6,000) are owned and managed by a licensee, and those employees are therefore not eligible for Starbucks’ health care plan, which includes abortion coverage.

Working 20 hours per week at Starbucks-owned stores qualifies employees for health insurance. However, the spokesperson declined to say how many part- and full-time workers at Starbucks locations are signed up for the company’s health care plan. The spokesperson also declined to say whether contracted workers on the corporate side of Starbucks are eligible for the company’s health care plan.

Tesla

A spokesperson for Tesla did not reply to repeated requests for comment, and the company still doesn’t appear to have a public relations team.

Uber

A spokesperson for Uber did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

Yelp

A spokesperson for Yelp confirmed that “contractors do not receive healthcare or PTO benefits through Yelp.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. on July 14, 2022 to include a statement from the Alphabet Workers Union.


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