Aug 16, 2019

Employees revolt over immigration

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Employees at several big companies, including Google and Whole Foods, are revolting against their bosses for accepting work from government agencies that enforce the Trump administration's immigration policies.

Why it matters: The immigration debate has become so polarizing under President Trump that companies are now finding themselves at odds with their workforces for being involved at any level with the immigration enforcement process.

Driving the news: Employees at Google circulated a petition Wednesday demanding that Google publicly commit not to support government agencies that engage in practices they feel amount to "human rights abuses."

  • The petition calls for Google not to provide any "infrastructure, funding, or engineering resources, directly or indirectly" for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). They're worried because CBP is looking for a contractor to provide cloud computing services.
  • Whole Foods employees demanded this week that Amazon, their parent company, cut ties with Palantir, a government contractor that's being called out for its work with ICE.
  • Ogilvy, a global PR agency, was forced to confront angry employees at a town hall meeting last month over a multi-million dollar contract with CBP. The agency's CEO wrote to staffers in late July that the agency would continue to do work with the agency, despite employee backlash.

Between the lines: Even companies that are far removed from the government are under fire for ties to immigration.

  • In June, Wayfair workers protested the company's furniture sales to an immigration detention camp. The tension between employees and the company spooked investors too, with Wayfair's stock taking a hit as employees protested.
  • Axios' Ina Fried reported in July that a nonprofit group slammed Palantir for its ties to government agencies in a study that details all corporate ties to CBP vendors.

Be smart: More than ever, there is pressure on corporations and their leadership to stand up for social issues that their costumers and employees care about. For instance, in recent months, several banks — including Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo and SunTrust — said they would no longer lend money to companies that run immigrant detention centers.

  • Yes, but: That pressure companies face can be problematic for brands that need to serve a wide range of customers and employ diverse workforces. Advocates are pushing to hold companies accountable for their policies by encouraging employee and consumer activism on social media, but some employees feel that the pressure is alienating conservatives.

The big picture: Several issues have become divisive for companies and their workforces under the last two years of the administration, according to a Morning Consult survey.

  • Guns have become more contentious in the wake of high-profile mass shootings like Parkland. Walmart employees staged a walkout last week to protest gun sales after two mass shootings left dozens dead in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
  • Restrictive abortion bills at the state level have forced many companies to change their policies or pull their business from certain states. Earlier this year, Hollywood heavyweights like Netflix, Disney, NBC and WarnerMedia all considered film production boycotts if Georgia upheld a controversial "fetal heartbeat" abortion ban.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The issues haunting CEOs during the Trump era

Source: Morning Consult

Swelling employee protests and consumer boycotts have CEOs at large corporations spooked over how and when to respond to hot-button issues during the Trump administration.

Why it matters: With trust in government at a record low, people are looking to powerful businesses to shape the conversation around topics of national importance — and chief executives are torn over how to proceed without offending customers or shareholders.

Go deeperArrowAug 19, 2019

Google curbs politics at work with new guidelines

Photo: Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Images

Google has released new protocol to curb employee "discussion of politics and other topics not related to work," in an attempt to avoid disruption, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters, per the WSJ: This is a meaningful change for Alphabet Inc. — Google's parent company — which previously touted its support for open communication and debate. "The tech titan helped pioneer the Silicon Valley idea of the workplace as a college-like campus." However rebellions were rising over issues like pursuit of government contracts.

Go deeperArrowAug 24, 2019

America's worker deserts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. unemployment rate is so low that some cities and states have turned into "worker deserts" — places where companies can't find people to hire.

Why it matters: The "good news" story of the strong labor market has a big downside that is playing out in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida, where companies say they can't keep up with business demand — hampering growth — unless they find more workers.