‘They kept silent’ Many companies are on the sidelines of Texas’ new abortion law – will they stay there?

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Texas’ new abortion law has sparked a wave of criticism, including from President Joe Biden, scathing dissent from the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court, and protests outside the House of State of Texas – but so far the reaction of most American companies has been stifled, if anything.

More than a year ago, the murder of George Floyd sparked numerous denunciations of the company against police brutality and an influx of money intended to fight racial inequality.

Months ago, Georgia’s new election laws drew corporate criticism, even going so far as to relocate the All-Star Game of baseball. In 2016, companies lined up to take a stand against North Carolina’s law requiring people to use public toilets that match their gender at birth.

Some big companies have recently lobbied abortion laws. In 2019, Netflix NFLX,
+ 0.34%
and Disney DIS,
-0.47%
both said they would have to rethink the filming and business in Georgia if a certain abortion law came into effect. Like Texas law, Georgia law prohibited abortions following a “detectable human heartbeat.”

Last year, a federal judge struck down the law. Netflix and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Texas law.

Now comes the enactment of SB 8, a law that bans abortions in Texas at about six weeks and allows private citizens to sue providers and people who “help and encourage” an abortion. It could even include anyone driving a woman to a clinic.

Some critics of the law say they’re still waiting to hear what businesses think about SB8 – which also takes effect in a large, business-friendly, low-tax state.

“Corporate America has not really reacted. They have remained silent, ”said Aimee Arrambide, executive director of Avow, an Austin-based advocacy group that lobbies for increased access to abortion in the state.

Admittedly, a handful of companies have made their position clear.
Lyft LYFT,
-2.21%
CEO Logan Green announced on Friday that the ridesharing platform will fully cover the legal bill for drivers prosecuted under the law. The company also announced a $ 1 million donation to Planned Parenthood. “We encourage other companies to join us,” he said. noted on Twitter TWTR,
+ 0.09%.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, said in a tweet that Uber is “in it too and will cover legal costs in the same way.” Thanks for the help.

Austin, Texas-based dating site Bumble announced Thursday that it is setting up a relief fund “to support the reproductive rights of women and people of all genders seeking abortions in Texas.”

Wednesday evening, Shar Dubey, CEO of Match Group MTCH,
+ 0.73%
in Dallas sent a memo saying she was setting up a fund to cover the costs of out-of-state abortion. She noted that she was speaking personally and not on behalf of the company.

They were the exceptions.

For example, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla TSLA,
+ 0.16%,
said on Twitter that he “would rather stay out of politics.” Tesla has chosen Austin as the site for its next “gigafactory” location.

Oracle ORCL,
+ 0.22%,
which moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dell Technologies, which is based in Round Rock, and other large Texas-based companies, including Exxon Mobil XOM, also don’t
-0.38%,
AT&T T,
-0.29%
and McKesson MCK,
-0.25%.
American Airlines AAL,
-1.97%
made no comment, according to a spokesperson.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise HPE,
+ 0.58%
announced late last year that he was moving to Houston. “As a global company with 60,000 team members, HPE encourages our team members to engage in the political process where they live and work and to make their voices heard through advocacy and advocacy. ‘voting booth,’ a spokesperson told MarketWatch, noting that the company’s headquarters remain in Houston.

For Arrambide, general silence goes further than companies avoiding hot button issues. “There is still so much stigma that they don’t want to talk about it. They are turning away from it on the pretext that it is too political, ”said Arrambide.

For Jen Stark, however, the relative calm could be a sign that companies are thinking about strategy. “The silence so far doesn’t necessarily make me think. People are taken into account, ”said Stark, senior director of corporate strategy at the Tara Health Foundation and former director of corporate relations at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Stark said she is currently in discussions with large publicly traded companies who are trying to find out what to say and what to do in response to the new Texas law. “It’s a really unique moment,” Stark said. “I think they are scrambling to catch up. “

This raises a bigger question: Should companies weigh in on issues that might not align with their immediate business goals and corporate mission, even as workers increasingly expect them to be. express themselves? A recent survey of 3,000 employees by consulting firm Gartner found that 75% “expect their employer to take a stand on current societal or cultural issues, even if those issues have nothing to do with it. their employer ”.

James Copland, a senior researcher at the right-wing Manhattan Institute, doesn’t think so. Businesses must be given the opportunity to speak out on the laws and regulations that affect them, and they have every right to join business groups and associations to defend their interests – and the interests of their shareholders.

This is where it should end, he said.

“In general, companies are not toys for CEOs to play politics with shareholders’ money. … I think they shouldn’t be at the forefront of culture wars, ”Copland said. For the largest of the companies, “I think most executives and boards will want to stay out of this one. “

Stark noted that companies may be prompted to speak out against restrictive abortion laws when the issue is presented as a labor issue.

Two-thirds of people say the new Texas law would discourage them from working in Lone Star State, according to a survey of about 1,800 people commissioned by the Tara Health Foundation.

But Texas Governor Greg Abbott doesn’t seem worried.

“The people who don’t wring their hands are the people who create jobs and run businesses,” he said Thursday in an interview with CNBC. Abbott noted the financial incentives coming to Texas, such as the absence of state income tax.

Indeed, the population of Texas has increased. As a result of the 2020 census tally, Texas is bringing two more seats in Congress. The state has a population of 29.1 million and a population growth rate of nearly 16% over the past 10 years, according to census data.

For Arrambide, the step widely followed would add additional strength to the responses of companies. “If companies really take a stand, that would be so powerful,” she said.

See also: Most workers say companies should take action against racial injustice – but they haven’t heard from the C sequel about the problem

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