What Better Place Than Here, What Better Time Than Now

Look at any of the millions of posts sharing personal abortion stories and pro-choice support on LinkedIn over the weekend and you’ll likely find a comment similar to this one:

“Why use LinkedIn for this type of political post? Engagement at all costs.”

I could not disagree more. Work is political. Reproductive rights have a significant impact on work, and our work impacts our own and other people’s access to reproductive services. Having conversations about abortion rights in a work environment is not only appropriate; it is necessary. Abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. When our coworkers or our clients are subjected to a removal of their human rights, that’s something we need to talk about; not in terms of whether we should talk about it, but what we are doing about it.

In April I wrote about the importance of having political discussions at work which sparked a lively discussion both on the platform and off. Today I want to revisit some of my reasoning in that article with the recent US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision as the backdrop.

Reproductive Rights and Work

Work and reproductive rights are intrinsically and inseparably linked. Pregnancy, child birth, and child rearing all have significant mental and physical impacts on a person’s ability work. Having the ability to choose whether to bring a pregnancy to term is essential to the health and wellbeing of every person who can get pregnant. For many people, especially in countries with weak unions and few legislated and enforced worker protections, an unwanted pregnancy may mean the loss of a job. In some countries like the USA where healthcare is often funded through your job, losing a job means losing essential services that may be needed to keep you and your family alive.

Like I said, work and reproductive rights are intrinsically and inseparably linked. And access to abortion is an essential part of reproductive rights for every person who may get pregnant.

Discussing reproductive rights and the politics of reproductive rights at work is also essential. In countries where parents and caregivers are granted extensive parental leave, this is the result of decades of political work to support workers and their families. In companies where nursing rooms, child care services, and fertility support are provided, this is the result of decades of political work to support workers and their families. The same can be said for US companies now providing funding and paid leave for people accessing abortion services. This is the result of decades of political work to support workers and their families. Because access to abortion is an essential part of reproductive healthcare.

The work we do also impacts the reproductive rights of the people impacted by our work. If you work for a company that gathers data on their users, and that data can somehow be tied to accessing reproductive health services including abortion, that data may be subpoenaed by law enforcement in regions where abortion is criminalized. How these companies respond to such subpoenas is a political decision. What penalties (legal, or in the courtroom of public opinion) these companies are willing to accept as a result of their decisions, is also a political decision. Choosing to work for a company that takes a stance supporting one side or the other is a political decision. Choosing to work for a company actively funding politicians who aim to limit the reproductive rights of people who may get pregnant is a political decision.

Work is political

Work, down to the most basic principles of having the right to work, is itself political. You don’t have to go far back in history to find a time when people were denied the right to paid labor for things like their gender, their sexual orientation, their religious beliefs, their country of birth, or their skin colour.

Workers’ rights to fair wages, paid medical leave, paid vacation time, reasonable hours, a safe work environment, all these and more are hard-fought political issues, many of which are still challenged in courts and seats of government to this day. Women and people who may become pregnant’s right to work, right to paid parental leave, right to not lose their job over reproductive decisions, right to not be passed over for promotions due to their reproductive choices, these are all hard-fought political issues for which we are still fighting.

Every 1st of May, workers unite around the world to celebrate International Workers’ Day with marches and protests supporting the rights of workers. In many countries, a Labour or Workers party presents candidates at every election. In some countries, the Labour Party leads the government.

To say we can’t talk about politics at work is to say we can’t talk about work. Because work is political.

By Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a Senior Staff Instructor at LinkedIn Learning (formerly specializing in AI, bleeding edge web technologies, and the intersection between technology and humanity. He also occasionally teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is a popular conference and workshop speaker on all things tech ethics, AI, web technologies, and open source.