Regulators in California said on Thursday that they had fined Pacific Gas & Electric $125 million for its role in causing the Kincade fire, which injured four people and destroyed hundreds of buildings in 2019.
As part of a settlement with the regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, the company will pay the state $40 million and will forgo collecting $85 million it is entitled to from its customers in the state. The commission’s action followed a determination by investigators at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection that a PG&E transmission line caused the fire.
PG&E said it reached the settlement to more quickly compensate victims and so it could continue improving its systems, which have been responsible for many fires in recent years, including the deadliest one in state history, the 2018 Camp fire.
“We will continue our work to make it safe and make it right, both by resolving claims stemming from past fires and through our work to make our system safer,” PG&E said in a statement.
Regulators and the courts have ordered PG&E to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for starting wildfires. The utility filed bankruptcy in January 2019 after amassing $30 billion in liability related to fires.
The Kincade fire burned almost 78,000 acres in Sonoma County over two weeks in October and November 2019.
Officials are investigating the company’s equipment in at least three fires that burned this year, including the Dixie fire, the second-largest wildfire in California history.
Royal Dutch Shell said Thursday that it had decided not to invest in a British oil development off the coast of Scotland that has become a test of the government’s environmental credentials.
The field, known as Cambo, is in deep water northwest of the Shetland Islands. It is seen as a bellwether for the future of Britain’s declining but still large North Sea oil industry.
The British government is considering whether to approve the project, which environmental groups and some politicians have said should be rejected because it would produce carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change.
Shell, which owns 30 percent of Cambo, said it had “concluded the economic case for investment in this project is not strong enough at this time.”
The company also said there was “potential for delays,” apparently referring to the possibility that the drilling would draw protests from environmental groups and possibly legal actions trying to stop it. Shell said recently that it planned to move its headquarters from the Netherlands to Britain.
Shell’s decision to decline to invest in developing Cambo is a serious blow to the project. Siccar Point Energy, a private equity-backed firm that is Cambo’s main owner and developer, said that while “disappointed” by Shell’s decision, it remained “confident about the qualities” of the project, saying it would create 1,000 jobs.
Siccar Point has said that it plans to invest $2.6 billion in Cambo and that it has already spent $190 million in the four years since it acquired the rights to the field, which was discovered in 2002.
The oil industry argues that as long as Britain consumes more oil and natural gas than it produces, it is preferable for those fuels to come from the North Sea, where emissions regulations can be set, instead of from places with potentially fewer controls.
The environmental group Greenpeace UK said letting Cambo go ahead “would be a disaster for our climate and would leave the U.K. consumer vulnerable to volatile fossil fuel markets.”
Didi Chuxing, the Chinese Uber-like ride-hailing champion and once considered the world’s most successful start-up, said Friday that it would begin delisting its New York-traded shares and prepare for a public offering in Hong Kong.
The move is sure to reverberate outside China, particularly in Washington and on Wall Street. Just in June, Didi sold shares to global investors in an initial public offering in New York that valued the company at $69 billion. The abrupt turn after just six months is likely to anger investors, who bid up the price of the company this summer when it listed. READ MORE →
Google will no longer require employees to start returning to the office on Jan. 10 because of “continued uncertainty,” the company said Thursday. Google had targeted early January as the soonest that it would demand employees to come to the office a few times per week as part of its hybrid work schedule. In an email on Thursday, Google did not set a new mandatory return to the office date, saying different regions will assess conditions next year.
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of a fellow chip company, Arm, halting what would be the biggest semiconductor industry deal in history, as federal regulators push to rein in corporate consolidation.
The F.T.C. said the deal between Nvidia, which makes chips, and Arm, which licenses chip technology, would stifle competition and harm consumers. The proposed deal would give Nvidia control over computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to develop competing chips. READ MORE →
By Katie Robertson and Peter Eavis
Shareholders in BuzzFeed, the digital media pioneer known for its listicles, quizzes and a news division that won its first Pulitzer Prize this year, voted on Thursday to take the company public.
The deal that will take BuzzFeed onto the stock market raised less money than initially expected, which could crimp the company’s spending in the years to come and lead it to rein in its ambitions.
The long-in-the-works plan, led by the BuzzFeed co-founder and chief executive Jonah Peretti, will merge it with a special purpose acquisition company, 890 5th Avenue Partners. So-called SPACs raise money through an initial public offering and use that cash to buy a private company.
The deal is expected to close by Friday, 890 5th Avenue Partners said in a news release. BuzzFeed will make its stock market debut as soon as Monday, under the ticker symbol BZFD. Part of the deal includes the completion of BuzzFeed’s $300 million acquisition of Complex Networks, a sports and entertainment publisher.
Because investors who buy into a SPAC do not know what company it plans to buy, they have the opportunity to redeem those shares at their I.P.O. price — in this case $10 — before it reaches any deal. Many did. BuzzFeed could have raised over $250 million from the investors in the SPAC, but in the end it got only $16 million, according to a news release from BuzzFeed and 890. But BuzzFeed will have $150 million that it is raising from selling a debt security. Other SPAC deals in recent weeks have suffered from shareholders asking for their money back.
As the shareholders were casting their votes, a move that could mean millions of dollars for its early investors and some current and former staff members, not everyone at the company was cheering: Union employees at its news division, BuzzFeed News, staged a daylong work stoppage in an effort to speed contract negotiations. All 61 of the workers who belong to the BuzzFeed News Union, which includes reporters, editors and designers, took part, the union said.
In a statement, the union accused the company of refusing to budge in contract negotiations. The main sticking point is pay. The union said BuzzFeed was proposing a 1 percent guaranteed annual wage increase and a minimum salary of $50,000.
“We deserve a strong contract that protects us and ensures a fair and equitable workplace for everyone in our unit,” Katie Notopoulos, a senior tech reporter, said in the statement.
A BuzzFeed spokesman said the company would be back at the negotiating table “next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues.”
The union, which formed in February 2019, is represented by the NewsGuild, which also represents workers at The New York Times and other media outlets. The union and the company have yet to agree on a first contract.
BuzzFeed was started out of a small office in New York’s Chinatown in 2006 as an experimental project in viral media for Mr. Peretti, back when his day job was chief technology officer of The Huffington Post. He devoted himself full time to BuzzFeed in 2011, after AOL bought HuffPost for $315 million, and transformed it into a stand-alone media company with the help of $35 million from investors.
It was soon hailed as the future of the news media. In recent years, though, it has missed revenue targets, and some investors pushed for a sale. Last year, BuzzFeed gained scale when it acquired HuffPost from its last owner, Verizon, in a stock deal.
By Alan Rappeport and Madeleine Ngo
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen on Thursday said she believed it was time to stop characterizing inflation as temporary and suggested that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could prolong the problem of rising prices.
Ms. Yellen said that over the summer it appeared that the pandemic was subsiding and that the economy would soon normalize. The spread of new variants, she said, has changed that calculus.
“Now the new variant, the Omicron variant — the pandemic could be with us for quite some time and hopefully not completely stifling economic activity, but affecting our behavior in ways that contribute to inflation,” Ms. Yellen said, speaking at an event sponsored by Reuters.
Ms. Yellen’s remarks echoed those of Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, who said earlier this week that inflation was more than a short-term issue.
“I am ready to retire the word transitory,” Ms. Yellen said. “I can agree that that hasn’t been an apt description of what we are dealing with.”
The Treasury secretary said that it was too soon to say what impact Omicron would have on the economy. It could further snarl supply chains and fuel inflation, she noted, but if it dampened economic growth it could blunt price increases. She warned, however, that it could cause “significant problems.”
“We’re very uncertain at this point just how significant a threat it’s going to be,” Ms. Yellen said, adding: “Hopefully it’s not something that’s going to slow economic growth significantly.”
Ms. Yellen, a former Fed chair, said that the central bank was committed to using its tools to contain inflation but said there was little it could do to ease clogged supply chains. She said that Mr. Powell’s suggestion this week that the Fed would consider speeding up its plan to withdraw financial support for the economy “makes sense.”
“What we don’t want to have develop is a wage-price spiral, in which inflation becomes its own self-reinforcing kind of phenomenon that would become chronic in the U.S. economy — something endemic,” Ms. Yellen said.
Her comments came as more Fed policymakers signaled growing concern that inflation, which the Fed targets to average 2 percent over time, is proving more durable than previously expected.
Last month, the Fed announced that it would begin scaling back its monthly purchases of $120 billion in bonds by $15 billion a month, putting it on track to end that program around June. Those large-scale bond purchases keep money flowing through financial markets.
Randal K. Quarles said in his final speech as a Fed governor on Thursday that he “certainly would be supportive” of ending the bond purchases sooner. Mr. Quarles is set to step down from the central bank at the end of the year.
Mr. Quarles said that rising inflation might not primarily be a “bottleneck story anymore,” and that the Fed may have to respond more quickly to constrain demand.
“This is not a question of demand at pre-Covid levels and supply taking a while to reach back up to that pre-Covid capacity,” he said at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. “But rather we have sustained higher demand.”
Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said at an event hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Thursday that the Fed may need to hasten the end of the bond-buying program and start “crafting a plan” to at least consider raising interest rates, which have been near zero since the start of the pandemic.
Ms. Daly said the central bank would not aim to withdraw support completely, “but to start lessening the amount of accommodation we’re providing when the economy is looking to be self-sustained.”
Raphael W. Bostic, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said at the Reuters event on Thursday that high inflation and a healing labor market have made it appropriate for the Fed to end its bond purchases by the end of the first quarter of next year. If interest rates run as high as 4 percent next year, he said, there would be a “good case” for the central bank to pull forward its rate increases.
Half of the Fed’s policymakers expected to lift rates in 2022, according to the last economic projections released in September.
U.S. stocks rallied Thursday, recovering some of their losses from drops earlier in the week.
The S&P 500, the U.S. benchmark index, gained 1.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite advanced 0.8 percent.
The emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron, has triggered a tumultuous stretch for major indexes. The S&P 500 on Friday marked its biggest drop since February, and it has whipsawed between gains and losses since.
News that the Federal Reserve could reduce its support for the economy more quickly and the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the U.S. prompted stocks to fall again. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen suggested that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could boost inflationary pressures and prolong supply chain disruptions.
Oil prices, which have been similarly volatile, also swung higher on Thursday as officials from
OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries decided not to make any changes to their production schedule. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, recovered early losses for a gain of 1.4 percent, to $66.50 a barrel.
Travel and leisure stocks also rebounded from steady declines over the week. Delta Air Lines was among the best performers in the S&P 500 with a gain of more than 9 percent. Southwest Airlines, Alaska Air, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Group rose more than 6.5 percent.
The Labor Department reported a rise in initial jobless claims on Thursday. Claims increased last week by 28,000 to 222,000 but still remained at their lowest level since March 2020. The jump followed a sharp drop in claims in the prior week.
The Labor Department is set to publish its jobs report for November on Friday, with economists surveyed by Bloomberg expecting more than 500,000 jobs added last month.
When officials from OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing countries met by video conference on Thursday, they had a lot to worry about. The biggest concerns were whether the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus might torpedo the budding global economic recovery, and the restiveness of the United States and key Asian customers, including China, over high oil prices.
In the end, the group known as OPEC Plus decided to take the easy route and stick with a previously agreed-to program of gradually adding oil to the market. It decided to raise production by 400,000 barrels a day in January, just as it has in recent months.
But to show worried oil markets that they are ready to change that plan if needed, the producers said in a news release that their meeting would “remain in session” so the producers could monitor the market and “make immediate adjustments if required.”
That statement, analysts said, was intended to warn traders that OPEC Plus was ready to reconsider its production levels, including possibly cutting supplies, anytime the market appeared threatened — even before the next meeting scheduled for Jan. 4.
“It puts a floor under prices, saying you don’t know what they are going to do,” said Bhushan Bahree, an executive director at IHS Markit, a research firm. “It matches uncertainty with uncertainty.”
That message seemed to be sinking in, at least on Thursday. Prices dipped sharply as it emerged that OPEC Plus would raise production. But they recovered quickly, and later in the day futures were trading 1.7 percent higher, at about $70.10 a barrel for Brent crude, the international benchmark.
The producers’ decision to keep adding oil to the market for now was also “a victory for the Biden administration,” wrote Helima Croft, head of global commodities at RBC Capital Markets. President Biden’s aides had pressured Persian Gulf producers to continue increasing production in the hope of reducing gasoline prices for American drivers.
Though many analysts predicted that the group might pause the monthly increases it agreed on in July, or even cut output, others said the decision taken on Thursday made sense. No one yet knows whether the new Omicron variant will prove a big hit to the economy, a passing worry or something in between. A hasty halt to the production increases might also have sent a negative signal to the markets about the group’s view of the global economy.
At the moment, oil market fundamentals remain strong. In recent months, strong demand for oil and the producers’ restraint on output have drained stockpiles to low levels.
And analysts pointed out that future demand is probably holding up at least in the short term. “Middle East OPEC members will likely have seen good demand for their crude in January,” analysts from FGE, a consulting firm, said in a report on Thursday, as Asian economies powered ahead.
Maintaining the planned increase will probably also ease friction with the Biden administration, which last month orchestrated a planned release of oil stocks from the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve in conjunction with smaller moves by other large oil consumers.
The unusual rebellion over prices, which included China, Japan, India and South Korea, all key customers for Persian Gulf oil producers, is a worrying development for countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It could ultimately threaten both their national finances, which are dependent on oil revenue, and their control of markets.
The planned release of the oil reserves, coupled with the impact of the new variant, have pushed prices down more than 17 percent since the seven-year highs of about $85 a barrel reached in October — probably accomplishing much of what the White House wanted.
Analysts say lower prices will not only ease tensions with Washington but also accomplish other OPEC Plus goals, including discouraging investment in shale oil drilling in the United States.
Current prices may also reduce the incentive for the Biden administration to reach a nuclear deal with Iran in ongoing indirect talks. An Iran free of sanctions could quickly put substantial volumes of oil on the market, a potential worry for Tehran’s fellow members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, like Saudi Arabia.
Some analysts say that OPEC Plus may just be postponing inevitable cuts in deference to Washington, and that it will need to squeeze output if it wants to protect prices.
“The longer they wait, the more they may need to do,” said Bill Farren-Price, a director at Enverus, a market research firm.
Still, for a diverse group like OPEC Plus, sticking to a plan at a time of uncertainty is an easier sell than a change of course.
Twitter and Facebook said they have removed thousands of accounts connected to Chinese information campaigns, in the latest sign of Beijing’s ambitions to shape the global narrative around the country.
In a notice posted early Thursday, Twitter said that it took action against two networks comprising more than 2,000 accounts that worked to undermine accusations of human rights abuses in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, where Chinese officials have interned Muslim minorities and subjected them to harsh surveillance.
Both networks promoted videos shot within Xinjiang that sought to portray the region as one of prosperity and freedom. One of the networks, which Twitter attributed to the Chinese Communist Party, also coordinated verbal attacks against activists and articles critical of China, while bolstering Chinese state media with positive comments and likes, according to a report on the takedown released by the Stanford Internet Observatory, a research group focused on the misuse of technology and social media.
The New York Times and ProPublica first identified a large number of accounts in the network in a June report about the campaign to project normalcy in Xinjiang.
Although many of the more than 30,000 tweets attributed to the network received little engagement, the use of harassment and hashtags indicated “an effort to reframe global debate or to crowd out critical/adversarial narratives,” the Stanford report said.
In a separate statement released late Wednesday, Facebook said it had taken down more than 500 accounts after they had helped to amplify posts from a fake Swiss biologist named “Wilson Edwards” who alleged the United States was interfering in World Health Organization efforts to track the origins of Covid-19. The fake scientist’s accusations were quoted by Chinese state media.
When the Swiss embassy in Beijing said “Wilson Edwards” did not exist, Facebook found that his account on the platform had been created less than 12 hours before it began posting.
The takedowns are the latest in a series of efforts by American social media companies to push back against Chinese information campaigns. Although blocked within China, Twitter and Facebook have become important avenues for shaping global opinions about China. In recent years, Chinese diplomats and state media have focused new efforts on building followings on the platforms.
Members of the United Automobile Workers union have voted decisively to change the way they choose their president and other top leaders, opting to select them through a direct vote rather than a vote of delegates to a convention, as the union has done for decades.
The votes on the election reform proposal were cast in a referendum open to the union’s roughly one million current workers and retirees and due by Monday morning. Nearly 64 percent of the roughly 140,000 members who cast valid ballots favored a direct-election approach, according to a court-appointed independent monitor of the union.
“It is time to move forward on behalf of the over one million members and retirees of the U.A.W. in solidarity,” the union said in a statement.
The referendum was required by a consent decree approved this year between the union and the Justice Department, which had spent years prosecuting a series of corruption scandals involving the embezzlement of union funds by top officials and illegal payoffs to union officials from the company then known as Fiat Chrysler.
Reformers within the U.A.W. have long backed the one member, one vote approach, arguing that it would lead to greater accountability, reducing corruption and forcing leaders to negotiate stronger contracts. A group called Unite All Workers for Democracy helped organize fellow members to support the change in the referendum.
“The membership of our great union has made clear that they want to change the direction of the U.A.W. and return to our glory days of fighting for our members,” said Chris Budnick, a U.A.W. member at a Ford Motor plant in Louisville, Ky., who serves as recording secretary for the reform group, in a statement Wednesday evening. “I am so proud of the U.A.W. membership and their willingness to step up and vote for change.”
David Witwer, an expert on union corruption at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, said the experience of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which shifted from voting through convention delegates to direct election in 1991, after an anti-racketeering lawsuit by federal prosecutors, supported the reformers’ claims.
Dr. Witwer said the delegate system allowed seemingly corrupt union leaders to stay in power because of the leverage they had over convention delegates, who were typically local union officials whom top leaders could reward or punish.
“Shifting the national union election process from convention delegates to membership direct voting was pivotal in changing the Teamsters,” he said by email.
At the U.A.W., leadership positions have been dominated for decades by members of the so-called Administration Caucus, a kind of political party within the union whose power the delegate system enabled.
Some longtime U.A.W. officials credit the caucus with helping to elevate women and Black people to leadership positions earlier than the union’s membership would have directly elected them.
But the caucus could be deeply insular. The Justice Department contended in court filings that Gary Jones, a former U.A.W. president who was sentenced to prison this year for embezzling union funds, used some of the money to “curry favor” with his predecessor, Dennis Williams, while serving on the union’s board.
Union officials have said Mr. Williams, who was recently sentenced to prison as well, later backed Mr. Jones to succeed him, helping to ensure Mr. Jones’s ascent.
A coalition of the nation’s largest media companies and news organizations has filed a legal brief in support of Stephen K. Bannon, asking a federal court not to bar him from publicly releasing documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
As part of a contempt of Congress case against him, the government is seeking to prevent Mr. Bannon from releasing thousands of pages of documents he has access to. The coalition — which includes ABC, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post — filed the brief on Tuesday, arguing that the government’s proposed order would violate the First Amendment.
Mr. Bannon, a onetime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November and charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with subpoenas to testify and to provide documents for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 mob attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
As part of the discovery process, Mr. Bannon’s lawyers have gained access to more than 1,000 pages of documents, including transcripts of witness testimony and grand-jury exhibits. In a Nov. 17 filing, the Justice Department asked that a protective order be put in place to bar Mr. Bannon from making any of the documents public.
In a subsequent filing it noted that Mr. Bannon had indicated he intended to release documents “to make extrajudicial arguments about the merits of the case pending against him and the validity of the government’s decision to seek an indictment.” Federal prosecutors also pointed to remarks that Mr. Bannon made at a news conference after his first court hearing, including: “We’re going to go on the offense on this.”
It is unusual for Mr. Bannon and major news organizations to fall on the same side of an issue. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon has frequently denigrated established news media outlets.
But the coalition argued that the release of documents by Mr. Bannon was in the public interest.
“The public has an overwhelming interest in the facts, circumstances and causes of the Jan. 6 riot,” the coalition said in its brief. “Bannon has been indicted in an investigation of the riot and has demonstrated his desire to communicate with the press and public about the government’s case against him.”
News of the legal brief was reported earlier by The Daily Mail.
A commercial for the supermarket chain Tesco featuring Santa Claus wielding a vaccine passport was deemed acceptable by British advertising regulators after viewers submitted a near-record number of complaints that the spot promoted vaccination.
Most of the 5,000 complaints received claimed that the ad, which was posted in mid-November, tried to pressure viewers into getting vaccines and encouraged medical discrimination based on vaccine status, according to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Toby King, a spokesman for the agency, said on Thursday that the commercial “doesn’t break our rules and there are no grounds for further action.”
The Tesco ad, created by the Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad agency and set to a rendition of the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” shows people prevailing through various obstacles (a blackout, a closed mall, a produce shortage that leaves a snowman with an eggplant for a nose) to celebrate Christmas. A news anchor announces at one point that Santa might be quarantined, but then he shows proof of vaccination to a border control agent, inspiring cheers.
“While we understand that some people disagree with the vaccine program and may find the ad in poor taste, we have concluded that the ad is unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offense on the basis suggested,” Mr. King said.
Tesco said in a statement that the ad took “a lighthearted view on how the nation is feeling.”
“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and the advert reflects the current rules and regulations regarding international travel,” the company said.
Amid concerns about a new coronavirus variant, Omicron, Britain has barred travelers from 10 African countries, required masks in shops and on public transportation and accelerated its rollout of vaccine booster shots, hoping to vaccinate every adult by the end of next month.
Another vaccine-related ad this year prompted a review by the Advertising Standards Authority. In late December, when vaccine rollouts were in their early stages, the Irish budget airline Ryanair began running commercials proclaiming “vaccines are coming” and showing young vacationers without masks or social distancing with text urging customers to “jab and go!”
The ad generated 2,370 complaints from viewers who felt that it was misleading, offensive and irresponsible, and that it implied that the majority of Britons would be successfully vaccinated by summer. (More than half of people 12 and older were fully vaccinated by the first week of June.) The Advertising Standards Authority banned the ads.
The Tesco holiday ad drew the second-highest number of complaints in the agency’s history. The leader is a commercial from 2014, in which the betting company Paddy Power took bets on the outcome of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic sprinter who was eventually convicted of killing his girlfriend. The ad attracted 5,500 complaints and was banned.
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta
One of the arguments that Mississippi has made as a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy makes its way through the Supreme Court is that women have progressed enough economically to make abortion unnecessary.
Before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion up to 23 weeks, “there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career,” Mississippi’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch, said in a statement in July summing up the argument and announcing that she had filed a brief with the court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Maternity leave was rare. Paternity leave was unheard-of. The gold standard for professional success was a 9-to-5 with a corner office. The flexibility of the gig economy was a fairy tale.
“In these last 50 years,” she continued, “women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.”
While some progress has been made, the idea that the benefits that Ms. Fitch described are available to a majority of women is still a stretch.
Parental leave is still rare. The United States is the only rich country without national paid maternity leave. Family leave is available to only 20 percent of private-sector workers and 8 percent of low-wage workers, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The option to work from home is not widely available. Even with the pandemic closing down offices, fewer than half of U.S. workers had the flexibility to work from home in 2020.
Research has found that women face more barriers to fully participating in the work force without access to abortion. One study last year compared the outcomes of women who were able to obtain an abortion and those who were denied the procedure. It found “a large and persistent increase in financial distress” for those denied abortions, including larger debt and higher eviction rates. Studies also have directly linked a woman’s ability to control her fertility with increased labor force participation.
Becoming a mother also can have a significant economic impact. Mothers lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in lifetime earnings in what is known as the “motherhood penalty.” Fathers don’t face decreased wages.
While pregnancy discrimination has been outlawed, it is still rampant. In two-thirds of the dozens of pregnancy discrimination cases filed between 2015 and 2019, courts sided with employers, stating that they didn’t need to provide pregnant women with accommodations like additional bathroom breaks or a stool to sit on, according to an analysis by A Better Balance, a national advocacy organization that provides free legal advice for pregnant women facing discrimination.
Should the court overturn Roe v. Wade, at least 20 states have laws or constitutional amendments already in place to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, and five others are likely to follow suit.
That could affect abortion access for 41 percent of women of childbearing age, adding to women’s economic difficulties that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.