Levi Strauss & Co. — often one of the earliest voices in fashion to chime in on systemic societal changes — is underscoring its support for reproductive rights as the Supreme Court appears to be ready to strike down Roe v. Wade.
“Protecting access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, is a critical business issue,” the denim giant said in a statement. “Efforts to further restrict or criminalize that access would have far-reaching consequences for the American workforce, the U.S. economy and our nation’s pursuit of gender and racial equity. It would jeopardize workplace gains women have made over the past 50 years, disproportionately impact women of color and force companies to implement different health policies for different locations. Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees. That means protecting reproductive rights.”
Reporting by Politico unearthed a draft ruling written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that would bring down Roe, removing the federal guarantee that women would have access to abortions and putting the issue instead to the states. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the authenticity of the draft, but said it is still a work in progress.
Levi’s pointed to research showing that legal access to abortion has led to “higher educational attainment, labor force participation and earnings,” that women who don’t have access to abortions are more likely to leave the workforce and that “women who seek abortion but can’t access it are four times more likely to subsequently end up in poverty.”
If Roe is indeed overturned, a host of states are prepared to ban abortions, setting up a situation that could have women traveling to gain access to the procedure.
And Levi’s said its benefits program would help employees get to where they need to be to gain safe access to the procedure if necessary.
“Under our current benefits plan, Levi Strauss & Co. employees are eligible for reimbursement for health care-related travel expenses for services not available in their home state, including those related to reproductive health care and abortion,” the company said. “There is also a process in place through which employees who are not in our benefits plan, including part-time hourly workers, can seek reimbursement for travel costs incurred under the same circumstances.”
The San Francisco company has a long history of jumping into big issues, a stance that the current chief executive officer Chip Bergh inherited and has also advanced.
Last year, when the company received the WWD Honor for Corporate Citizenship, Bergh acknowledged that there are consequences for taking strong a position on important topics, but is clearly undaunted.
“When we decided to weigh in on the gun violence issue, I had unmarked police cars in front of my house for a couple weeks,” Bergh told WWD last year, referring to the company’s 2016 request that shoppers don’t bring guns into its stores. “I had death threats, but it was the right thing to weigh in on. It was following an incident where a weapon was accidentally discharged in a [Levi’s] dressing room as a guy was trying on a new pair of jeans and he literally shot himself in the foot. It could have been another shopper, it could have been a child, it could have been one of my employees.”
And Levi’s can be expected to keep turning up on big topics.
“It’s a criteria that we’re looking at for CEO succession,” Bergh said. “You need a CEO who has thick skin, who’s not afraid to stick their neck out for the company because it takes thick skin to do it.”
MORE FROM WWD: