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.