elizabeth warren and cori bush are fighting for this groups abortion benefits

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, many employers said they would start covering travel costs for workers who need abortions and live in states with bans. But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) say a large share of the workforce will be excluded from these benefits: workers classified as “independent contractors.”

The two lawmakers sent a letter to the Labor Department on Thursday urging the agency to follow through on its proposed crackdown on worker misclassification. They said it was necessary to do so because their offices believe many companies will not include contractors when it comes to the abortion travel reimbursements.

Warren and Bush said five companies in particular ― Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Grubhub and DoorDash ― provided them with “generally inadequate” answers when asked if their contract workforces would be covered. “But all five confirmed, explicitly or implicitly, that independent contractors would be left out of the travel reimbursement for abortion care benefit,” they wrote. Their full letter, which was co-signed by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) can be read below.

“This disparity will have particular implications for already marginalized communities.”

– Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Rep. Cori Bush (D)

The lawmakers said the situation illustrated a “disparity” between white-collar workers directly employed by the companies and their independent contractors who technically work for themselves. Contractors are often not included in a company’s employee health care plan, which appears to be the primary vehicle for travel reimbursement related to abortions.

“These responses confirm that while the companies’ higher-paid corporate executives will rightfully enjoy access to this benefit, their independent contractors, who lack both pay stability and minimum wage protections, will not,” they said.

Many workers had abortion benefits through their health plans before the Dobbs ruling, whether they realized it or not. As HuffPost reported last year, the expansion of such benefits in recent months appears limited mostly to “a small select group of workers in America,” primarily white-collar ones. (There are notable exceptions, however, such as Starbucks, which said baristas on its health plan would be eligible for travel reimbursement.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) co-authored a letter with Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) urging the Labor Department to crack down on worker misclassification.
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images

Although many contractors truly work independently, for years employers have labeled workers as “independent contractors” in order to avoid the traditional costs of employment, like providing workplace benefits and paying for workers’ compensation related to injuries. In the case of gig platforms like Uber and Lyft, contractors also bear significant equipment costs in the form of cars and gas.

The Labor Department introduced a new regulation in October that would limit the circumstances under which an employer could put a worker in the contractor bucket. If the rule ends up going into effect, many employers would be forced to reclassify their contractors and employees and start covering the associated costs.

Warren and Bush said in their letter that Amazon and Uber made clear to their offices that only direct employees would be eligible for travel reimbursement. While Lyft, Grubhub and DoorDash did not “explicitly” say so, the lawmakers said, those companies said only people enrolled in the corporate health plans would be covered.

“This disparity will have particular implications for already marginalized communities,” they wrote. “More and more women have joined the gig workforce in recent years, and women of color face even greater obstacles in accessing abortions and related care.”

They urged the Labor Department to implement “the strongest rule possible” so that more contractors would be reclassified as employees.

Read the letter below:

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