Excerpted from a Protocol story by Emily Birnbaum
The country’s top tech companies are mobilizing against President Trump’s executive order barring federal contractors from offering diversity and inclusion training to their employees.
The executive order could force tech companies with large federal government contracts — including Google, Amazon and Microsoft — to decide between continuing to take hundreds of millions of dollars or pursuing efforts to educate their workforce on issues such as systemic racism and unconscious bias.
“I’m concerned that this sends the wrong message to companies that have done the right thing,” said Jason Oxman, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which counts Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle among its ranks. The federal government contracts with hundreds of thousands of companies across a range of industries, including nearly all of the largest tech companies, as longtime partners.
Microsoft, Amazon and Honeywell declined to comment on the order. Verizon, AT&T, Oracle, Salesforce, Dell and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Already, experts and lawyers have suggested the executive order could violate the First Amendment, considering it attempts to draw strict, specific boundaries around the speech of private citizens. Oxman said legal action is “certainly a possible outcome,” but ITI hasn’t made any final decisions about how to proceed.
The Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping prohibits any D&I training that promotes messages implying “an individual, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously” — language that is a standard part of unconscious bias trainings — or that “meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race,” among other provisions.
“Our founding documents rejected these racialized views of America, which were soundly defeated on the blood-stained battlefields of the Civil War,” the executive order reads. “Yet they are now being repackaged and sold as cutting-edge insights. They are designed to divide us and to prevent us from uniting as one people in pursuit of one common destiny for our great country.”
The Internet Association, another tech trade group representing Silicon Valley companies, issued a statement calling the executive order an “overreach.”
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