Daniel Hanley speaks while IBM colleagues including Sesha Baratham look on at the petition delivery to headquarters in New York on March 28, 2017.
The tech industry likes to maintain a progressive reputation even when its policies increase inequality across the country. Yet after Donald Trump's election, tech executives lined up to express willingness to work with Trump's administration. For tech employees, this disconnect between the values that the companies preach in public and the values expressed by Trump has led them to begin organizing in their workplaces, demanding that their employers not collaborate with the president and using this moment as an opportunity to push the companies to live up to those values of diversity and inclusion.
I spoke with Daniel Hanley, an IBM staff software engineer with IBM Security division. He is one of the organizers with the IBM petition campaign to reaffirm IBM’s values.
“Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, penned a public letter to Donald Trump. She said many things in it, but among them, she praised his plans for corporate tax breaks and congratulated him on his election. Then, she pledged to collaborate on certain areas. These areas included government infrastructure and security, which concerned many people, particularly when you consider what Donald Trump considers security.
This sparked a lot of outrage on the internal IBM blog. IBM, to its credit, asked people to provide some feedback. I have been working at IBM for over ten years. I haven’t seen anything like this. People spoke up. Most comments on the blog were expressing disappointment, “Ginni, what about our values? What about diversity, inclusion, respect? Donald Trump represents the opposite of all of these values to us. At least you could have clarified the extent to our participation in the Trump administration.”
IBM didn’t give any kind of adequate response to all of these concerns that people addressed. That is what prompted the campaign. We used the Coworker.org platform to draft a petition.
The organizing process is quite challenging, as it is for tech workers everywhere, it is a very geographically distributed environment. People might not have the same kind of rapport with a lot of their colleagues. A lot of people aren’t in the office.
We eventually, up to today we have got weekly conference calls with about two dozen people around the country that participate. The petition campaign isn’t just a list of names below a document. We are trying to form the basis of an organization that can hold IBM accountable to our values. That is the organizing structure behind it.
What the petition is calling for is, one, we want IBM to respect our right to refuse any participation in any illegal Trump project that violates the civil liberties of immigrants, Muslims, women, the LGBT community, marginalized groups in general. That is the first demand.
The second is we want IBM not just to talk about diversity and inclusion, but take some concrete steps in response to Trump’s election to show that we value diversity and inclusion by expanding the diversity recruitment program.
Three, we want IBM to clearly sever all ties with Trump related business entities. We don’t want the next IBM InterConnect 2018 conference to be held at a Trump hotel. Strangely, I researched on IBM’s internal website for employee discounts and we are being offered a discount at a Trump hotel in Miami. We think a clarification on the business conduct guidelines is in order.
Then, lastly, since so many IBM-ers are feeling upset, threatened by the Trump administration right now and we are living in precarious times, we want meaningful security in the form of restoration of benefits that have been recently cut. IBM cut the severance pay by 80%. The 401k policy uses an accounting trick that denies people who are laid off equal contribution—basically, they wait until the end of the year to make any contribution to the 401k, which is affecting people right now, especially older IBM-ers that are impacted by this age discrimination campaign that is in process. IBM is requiring long-term workers to co-locate to one of many cities in the United States – this is for U.S.-based workers – they are being asked to uproot and move even though their kids might be in school, they may have a partner that has a job. They are being asked to turn their life upside down or they lose their job, no questions asked, no severance.
Yes, we want IBM to reaffirm all of its values: diversity, inclusion, respect for the individual – a core IBM value. And also, ethical business conduct.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.