Boycott the Trump Summit

On Monday, June 19, the CEOs of at least six major tech companies plan to fly to the White House to attend a meeting with Donald Trump. The known attendees are:

  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft
  • Tim Cook, Apple
  • Safra Catz, Oracle
  • Ginny Rometty, IBM
  • Eric Schmidt, Alphabet (aka Google)

The remit of the group will be to “transform and modernize” government information technology and digital services, under the leadership of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

This meeting doesn’t have to happen. Tech employees have the power to stop it.

We’ve learned in the last six months that there is no clean way to do business with the Trump Administration. The President does not respect boundaries or institutions. You are either for him, or against him. That decision doesn’t belong to our CEOs; it belongs to us as an industry.

Tech executives met with Trump once before, in a famously awkward December meeting in Trump Tower. They know perfectly well who they’re dealing with, and yet they’re choosing to offer their tacit support to:

  • - A president who has attempted to bar people, including our own neighbors and colleagues, from entering the United States based on their religious beliefs or national origin.
  • - A president who has boasted on tape of his history of sexual assault.
  • - A president who has made shameless use of his office to profit his many business interests.
  • - A president who has unilaterally withdrawn the United States from the Paris agreement, and makes public statements doubting the existence of climate change.
  • - A president whose Administration is even now passing a bill in secret to deprive millions of Americans of health care.
  • - A president who fired his own FBI director for investigating his Administration, and who now accuses him of perjury.
  • - A president whose agenda for tech includes dismantling the few remaining protections on online privacy, and eliminating net neutrality.

Trump’s goal in convening this council is not to serve the country. His aim is to collect praise and credit, distract from his growing list of scandals, and demonstrate that Silicon Valley is willing to work for him and his vision of America.

Do you think Trump will interpret the heads of our industry showing up on command as anything but a tacit agreement to play by his rules?

Is that the signal we want to send?

With the important exception of Facebook, tech company CEOs have been eager to say “yes”. At the very time as some of them were publicly criticizing Trump for leaving the Paris Agreement, they were privately accepting this invitation to a meeting at the White House.

Such duplicity has worked for tech giants in the past. In March, Google and Facebook aggressively lobbied for the repeal of privacy protections that the overwhelming majority of their employees supported. Just last week, Google’s Eric Schmidt publicly praised Jared Kushner in the press for his “passion”. The next day, a government department investigating Google was shut down.

Now, in return for a public demonstration of fealty, the tech giants are being offered the promise of lucrative government contracts, and a cozy relationship with the President and his family. They think their employees will simply accept it as a fait accompli.

They are wrong.

If you work at a large tech company, email your CEO tonight, and demand that they do what’s right for your company by boycotting the Monday meeting.

Big tech companies will always do what is in their best interests. But their employees have the power to change what those best interests are.

Don’t just acquiesce to this meeting—make your voice heard, and show your employers that they will face consequences for colluding with Trump and his cronies.

Tech companies rely on a small, skilled workforce that is famously difficult to hire. Since the election, we’ve seen that even modest efforts at collective action get results. The pledge forced companies to break their public silence about whether they would work on a Muslim registry. Employee pressure during the travel ban got the CEOs of Facebook and Google to go on the record after days of stonewalling.

And yet we’ve been reluctant to use our power. It's our obligation to speak out now, on behalf of all those who can’t.

When Trump first flirted with tech executives in the winter of 2016, Tim Cook justified his attendance by saying that he’d “never found being on the sideline a successful place to be”.

CEOs may not feel successful being on the sidelines. But the most important thing is to not play the game.

Write your CEO right now. Hold them accountable. Demand they boycott the Monday summit. Get your coworkers to sign on with you.

Remember that when you act collectively on a workplace issue like this, you gain the formidable protections of American labor law. Use the power you have to shut this meeting down.

Show the world that the American tech industry stands with them, not with Donald Trump.

Things to do right now, tonight:

  1. If you work for one of the tech companies attending, email your CEO to demand they sit it out.
  2. If you work for a tech company that is not attending the summit, particularly one that was invited and chose not to go, email your CEO in support.
  3. If you have hiring authority in a tech company, make a public pledge to hire anyone sanctioned or fired for speaking out to their CEO about attending this meeting.
  4. Spread the news about this boycott! Tech workers can stop this meeting from taking place if we act quickly, and act in numbers.

-Maciej Ceglowski, Tech Solidarity, June 13, 2017