IBM suits revolt against CEO’s Trump endorsement

suitsCEO Ginni Rometty might be enthusiastic of her love of Donald Trump and his plans to build a national Muslim registry, but her staff are getting rather hacked off with her.

The IBM suits are revolting against their CEO’s pro-Trumpery in a very public way and telling her not to include IBM in Trump’s plans.

In November, Rometty wrote Trump directly, congratulating him on his electoral victory and detailing various services the company could sell his administration. The letter was published on an internal IBM blog along with a personal note from Rometty to her enormous global staff.

“As IBMers, we believe that innovation improves the human condition. … We support, tolerance, diversity, the development of expertise, and the open exchange of ideas,” she wrote in the context of lending material support to a man who won the election by rejecting all of those values.

However IBM employees were horrified and some of them are denouncing her letter and asserting their “right to refuse participation in any US government contracts that violate constitutionally protected civil liberties.”

The IBMPetition.org effort has been spearheaded in part by IBM cybersecurity engineer Daniel Hanley, who  started organizing with his coworkers after reading Rometty’s letter.

He has told the press that he was shocked because IBM has purported to espouse diversity and inclusion, and yet Rometty in an unqualified way was reaching out to an admin whose electoral success was based on racist programmes.

The petition now has 51 signees, which is a tiny fraction of the company’s enormous global staff, but has only circulated only privately. The full IBMPetition.org letter can reads: :

“We are disappointed that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s open letter to President-elect Donald Trump does not affirm IBMers’ core values of diversity, inclusiveness, and ethical business conduct. For our mutual aid and protection, we call on IBM to expand diversity recruitment programs, and we assert our right to refuse participation in any U.S. government contracts that violate constitutionally protected civil liberties. We call on IBM to demonstrate commitment to our Business Conduct Guidelines and to prevent perceived influence peddling through Trump affiliated businesses.”
“In response to your open letter to Mr. Trump [1], we are disappointed that you did not reaffirm the core values which differentiate both IBM as a company and us collectively as IBMers. While we understand your willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with the president-elect, we believe our shared culture and values remain not only constant, but also central to our transformation underpinned by cloud and cognitive initiatives. As you know, more than 400,000 IBMers around the world work in environments where diversity — including diversity of thought — is the norm. IBM values this because our diversity helps create innovation that enhances every aspect of our business.

“Your internal memo to employees, advocating diversity and the open exchange of ideas, echoes IBM President Tom Watson’s Policy Letter #4 [2]. Watson’s letter reaffirmed IBM’s moral leadership by refusing to discriminate on the basis of race, resisting the prevailing attitudes of governors in the southern United States. In this instance, Watson sacrificed short-term business interests in order to be on the right side of history, something IBM takes pride in today.”

The letter goes on to say that taking a conservative approach has grave implications.

“Our own founder’s experience and the rest of history teach us that accommodating those who unleash forces of aggressive nationalism, bigotry, racism, fear, and exclusion inevitably yields devastating outcomes for millions of innocents.”

The IBM petition is perhaps the first of its kind, a rare instance of tech employees directly confronting their management in an industry where organised labor is unheard of.

Already one IBM employee Elizabeth Wood has publicly quit the company shortly after reading Rometty’s letter. Apparently she provided advice and helped with drafts of the IBMPetition.org letter.