- Republican lawmakers are calling for the U.S. House of Representatives to stop doing business with Citigroup over news that the company will cover the costs of employee travel to access "adequate resources" in response to "changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S."
- "It has long been the policy of our legislative branch of government that taxpayer dollars not be used to fund abortion," Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., and others wrote in a letter Tuesday. "By offering to pay its employees in their efforts to terminate the lives of the unborn, Citi has forfeited its privilege of doing business with the House of Representatives."
- Citi announced the travel benefit in a proxy statement released in advance of its April 26 annual meeting. While the text of Citigroup's statement is vague, the policy is widely interpreted to be in response to the recently enacted Texas law that rigidly restricts access to abortion.
In some ways, Citigroup's unexpected centering in the contentious debate over abortion rights echoes Disney's role in the discussion about legislating LGBTQ content in schools: Both show how companies are increasingly navigating political waters and attempting to balance the interests of employees and customers.
While Disney's decision to weigh in on Florida's House Bill 1557 came after weeks of public pressure from employees, Citigroup's travel benefit appears to have come after quiet, internal conversations. While there were no public pressure campaigns related to this particular issue, CNBC reported on apparent employee frustration with other aspects of work at the company, including lengthy internal reviews and poor work-life balance.
With the Great Resignation still churning, employers are increasingly investing in strategies meant to keep employees happy — from traditional methods, like better compensation, to more creative benefits, like flexible hours and mental health support.
Citigroup's travel benefit joins other health benefits that have emerged to aid women and caregivers at work, from fertility care to lactation support. Women were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, and employers have been changing their thinking on how to support them commensurately.
But as companies champion workers through more generous healthcare benefits or public statements about legislation, they are also experiencing headaches from pushback outside the company's walls — from the public.
Disney is now facing a boycott and at least one promise to form and launch a competing media company. In addition to the Republican campaign to remove its role as a financial service provider to Congress, Citigroup is dealing with a threat from a Texas lawmaker to introduce a bill that would prevent the company from underwriting municipal bonds in the state unless it rescinds the travel policy.
As more workers who demand employers share their values enter the labor market, companies may find they need to hone, clarify and standardize their values for both public and internal audiences.