Tesla should say something – TechCrunch

Last week, a reader wrote to this editor, politely asking why Texas companies should talk about abortion laws passed last week.

“What does American Airlines have to do with abortion?” The reader suggests that companies may not be able to meet both ab-abortion and anti-abortion advocates and that asking them to take a stand on issues not related to their business will only contribute to American politicization.

That’s a broad view, and the U.S. The decision by the Justice Department yesterday to challenge the decision, which was overturned by the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling it “clearly unconstitutional,” could well reinforce it. After all, if one were to push back against what happened in the Lone Star State, it should be other legislators, not companies, right?

Still, there are more reasons for technology companies – and especially Tesla – to come out of the shadows and reject this law.

It’s a fact that abortion restrictions lead to higher healthcare costs for employers, but one consequence of Texas law that could have a particularly drastic effect on tech companies is its impact on recruitment. According to a study by social enterprise Rhea Ventures, 60% of women say they would be disappointed to get a job in a state that has tried to limit access to abortion, and the same is true for the small majority of men. Found.

Texas abortion law also creates an extra-judicial enforcement mechanism that alarms tech companies. The new law allows private citizens to sue not only the abortionist, but any woman who has had an inadvertent or unintentional abortion, whether or not it has anything to do with the case. In addition, there are significant financial rewards for the plaintiff to win: each defendant is entitled to pay $ 10,000, as well as cover the costs and fees of the plaintiff’s attorney.

Imagine if this example was applied to an issue involving technology companies, such as consumer privacy. Seth Chandler, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, observed ABC this week. “[the] The recipe developed by SB8 is not limited to abortion. It can be used for any constitutional rights that people do not like. ”

Tech companies can very well say that taking a side in the Texas abortion debate would be the political equivalent of jumping on a live wire, and it’s easy to sympathize with this view. Pew Research reports that 6 out of 10 Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with passion heating up on both sides.

Still, corporations are safely standing on previously controversial issues for their values ​​- and they have shown that corporate pressure works. In 2016, a group of about 70 large corporations, including Apple, Cisco, and even, yes, American Airlines, joined a legal attempt to block North Carolina law that barred transgender people from using public bathrooms that matched their gender identities. His ‘friend of the court’ briefly argued that the law supports “aggressive discrimination” and harms his ability to recruit and retain various employees.

By 2017, after already experiencing serious economic consequences, these same companies stopped trading with North Carolina, the ban was lifted.

A handful of CEOs, including Lift, Uber, Yelp and Bumble, have already taken a very public stance against the new Texas law. A company like Tesla could have a bigger impact on state politics. Elon Musk’s move to Texas sparked interest in the Texas tech scene, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott was so sensitive to Musk’s influence that he said Musk supported his state’s “social policies” the day after the new law was passed.

Musk – which has many financial interests in Texas including plans to build a new city called Starbays and become a local electricity provider – has so far refused to take a stand on the law. When asked about the issue, he replied, “In general, I believe that the government should seldom impose its will on the people, and, in doing so, should be willing to maximize their accumulated happiness.”

He also added that he would “choose to stay out of politics.”

Legislators and officials in at least seven states, including Florida and South Dakota, could prove wrong, saying they are closing a review of Texas’ new law and considering similar situations.

In May 2019, nearly 200 CEOs, including Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Bloomberg’s Peter Gruer, signed the New York Times announcement that banning abortion is bad for business: “Banning access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion,” read the ad, It threatens the health, liberty and economic stability of consumers. “

If Musk really believes that the government should “rarely impose its will on the people”, it should adopt a similar, public stance in Texas when the federal government fights, which could be a long, tedious battle.

In doing so he has little to lose – and much to gain.

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