IBM staff petition for right not to work on Trump's pet projects

Call for Big Blue to double down on diversity, avoid Trump hotels and generally do no evil

Photo by Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
See this finger? This wonderful finger? I made it into an I. For IBM

IBM staff have petitioned the company to – among other things – express concern 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.”

The petition's authors respect Rometty's “willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with the president-elect” but argue IBM's culture is essential “to our transformation underpinned by cloud and cognitive initiatives.”

It's not quite explained how doing business with the US Government under the leadership of President Trump would damage IBM. But the petition does cite “Policy Letter #4”, a document penned by IBM president Thomas Watson in 1954 that outlined IBM's intention not to discriminate on the basis of race, a challenge to governors of southern US states who were keen for big blue to invest in their states but also race to be a factor in deciding who should be allowed to work for the company. The letter made it plain that IBM would employ people on merit alone, should it choose to open facilities in those states, and was written a year before court cases made the same position common law. The petition seems to call for IBM to exercise similar moral leadership, by carrying out the following actions.

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. Lastly, in the present context of insecurity and unpredictability, we call on IBM to return to our traditions of high worker retention and morale by making retirement plans equitable once again.

There's also a call to “Respect our right to refuse participation in any U.S. contracts that violate constitutional and civil liberties” which sounds like an option to opt out of working on Trump's planned register of Muslims. Another demand wants IBM to “Prohibit perceived influence-peddling of elected officials by restricting IBM and its employees from using any Trump owned or Trump branded properties for business purposes, in accordance with the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines.”

The petition has been live for over a week and at the time of writing had recently passed 100 signatories, a slow takeup attributed to limited circulation.

Other media have recently reported the petition, so perhaps things will pick up. If Big Blue acknowledges the petition, we'll let you know. ®

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