Where do Tampa Bay employers stand on Roe v. Wade? Most won’t say.

We asked 40 Florida employers and economic development groups how the Supreme Court’s ruling will impact workers.
Protesters listen to speeches and display signs during the a protest following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, at North Straub Park in St. Petersburg.
Protesters listen to speeches and display signs during the a protest following the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, at North Straub Park in St. Petersburg. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published June 28, 2022|Updated June 28, 2022

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to strike down Roe v. Wade, the Walt Disney Co. announced it would help pay for employees facing “pregnancy-related decisions” to travel to areas where they could get an abortion.

Several major corporations echoed Disney’s position, including Live Nation, JP Morgan Chase, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Comcast, which owns Universal Studios Orlando. But with 80,000 employees in Florida, Disney’s statement carried the most immediate weight.

Where do Tampa Bay’s large companies stand on Roe v. Wade?

So far — and it’s early — most are keeping mum.

The Tampa Bay Times asked more than three dozen regional employers — some public and some private, some local and some global — about the court striking Roe v. Wade. We asked the organizations, who collectively employ more than 800,000 people worldwide, if they had communicated with employees about the decision, and if they planned to cover travel expenses for employees seeking abortions.

Of Tampa Bay’s 10 largest public corporations, only the largest, technology distribution company TD Synnex, responded by Tuesday afternoon. The company, which is co-headquartered in Largo and Fremont, California, said in a statement that its “practice has always been to protect and ensure the health and wellbeing of our co-workers,” of which it has 22,000 worldwide.

“Our new benefits plan has been updated to provide equal access to a variety of health services no matter where our co-workers live,” TD Synnex spokesperson Bobby Eagle said in a statement. “Our new benefits plan has been updated to provide equal access to a variety of health services no matter where our co-workers live. While we do not take a position on this issue, our updated medical plan has a travel benefit for a variety of procedures, including those related to reproductive health.”

Tampa Bay’s next nine largest public companies, which combined have a global workforce of more than 425,000, either declined comment or did not respond by Monday evening. They include Jabil, Raymond James Financial, Roper Technologies, Bloomin’ Brands, Kforce, Primo Water, Masonite, Mosaic and MarineMax. Also declining to respond were public companies Lazydays RV, KnowBe4, BRP Group and AutoWeb, who collectively employ another 5,800.

A number of private companies also declined comment or did not respond, including Publix, BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital, Rooms to Go, ConnectWise, Syniverse, ReliaQuest and Power Design. They have a combined workforce of nearly 280,000. (The Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, declined comment.)

The Times also checked in with a sampling of smaller local companies in different industries, including GTE Financial, Suncoast Credit Union, Grow Financial, Heritage Property and Casualty Company, PostcardMania and Vu Technologies. Only a couple responded.

St. Petersburg’s Climate First Bank, which was founded upon environmental principles and practices, said Monday that it took the weekend to review “how the Supreme Court decision will alter the lives of its employees,” according to a company statement to the Times. The bank currently has a workforce of 43.

“We are outraged by this decision, and the implications it has for the country and for the individual liberties of all people,” the statement read. “The wellbeing of our employees is our number one priority, so we have revised our healthcare travel reimbursement policy and reminded all employees of the mental health and counseling resources available through the current healthcare plans, should any team members require support during this time.”

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Wise, an Estonian currency transfer company publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, has a hub in Tampa that employs 350, and is known for a generous leave policy that includes 10 days off in the event of a lost pregnancy. In a statement, the company said it “works closely with each (employee) to find a solution to meet their needs and ensure their mental and physical wellbeing is prioritized while respecting their privacy.”

Related: From 'me days' to paid sabbaticals, this Tampa office is all about time off

Speaking publicly about a political issue can be a double-edged sword, said J.P. Dubuque, president and CEO of the Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation.

“Companies have to look at the potential brand risk that they could be associating themselves with,” Dubuque said. “And it’s not necessarily one particular political issue, or one particular political bent or the other. We’re seeing this across the board.”

Governments, too, are major employers. And while elected officials have made known their own opinions about Roe — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, for instance, called the decision “a striking down of a fundamental right for women to control their bodies” — most local governments have not changed their health care messaging or practices since Friday.

The cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater have not communicated any new policies to their nearly 10,000 combined workers, spokespeople said. Nor have Hillsborough, Pinellas or Pasco counties, which employ another nearly 10,000.

“The county has not yet had the opportunity to study potential ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on our organization’s employee healthcare benefits,” read a statement shared by a Hillsborough spokesperson.

Hillsborough and Pasco school district spokespeople said there had been no new messaging to employees following Friday’s news. A Pinellas schools spokesperson said travel for medical procedures was covered only “in very limited circumstances,” such as “needing an organ transplant outside of the area.” Together, the three districts employ about 50,000 workers.

It’s too early to tell whether tighter access to abortions could make Florida more or less attractive to new businesses and talent. The Tampa Bay Economic Development Council, Tampa Bay Chamber and Tampa Bay Partnership all declined to comment on the issue’s potential economic impact.

But Dubuque said that as corporations place more emphasis on environmental, social and governance issues, any region looking to grow its economy should be ready for questions from potential corporate partners.

“It’s coming up more, and it’s across the board, whether you’re talking about statewide issues or local issues,” he said. “We’ve gotten questions about all types of social issues that are going on here in our community. Social and political issues are becoming more important as companies look to where they locate, where they expand, where they grow.”

Times staff writers Barbara Behrendt, Charlie Frago, C.T. Bowen, Tracey McManus and Colleen Wright contributed to this story.

• • •

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