Workers Get Time Off To Protest Trump — Plus Paychecks, Too!
Facebook has a beef with Donald Trump. Since the problem has to do with its workforce, the corporation has adopted a policy that is spreading in the tech industry — namely, giving workers time off to protest Trump’s policies.
More specifically, Facebook takes issue with the administration’s new immigration policies. The company explicitly posted a directive that states workers taking time off on May 1st, for the protests on International Workers’ Day, will not be punished. The statement said:
At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up. We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions.
The principle applies to workers at every level. Facebook made it clear that any vendors providing services to the company would be expected to honor workers’ right to organize also. If they did not, the ties with offending contractors would be re-evaluated.
The social media giant isn’t alone. Other tech companies, large and small, are also giving employees time off to protest. Start-up database company Fauna not only allows unlimited time to engage in protests, but the employees are paid for their time off. Spokesperson Amna Pervez said:
We want our employees to know that we absolutely support the betterment of our country. People can take whatever they feel like they need to make a meaningful difference.
Many Silicon Valley businesses rely on immigrant workers as a main part of their workforce. For Facebook, the number of employees who come to this country on temporary visas exceeds 15% of the total.
It’s those temporary H-1B visas that are the latest issue stirring the immigration pot. Trump has the visas in his sights as part of his ‘America first’ campaign — in this case, insisting on positions being filled by Americans that are now held by temporary employees from other countries. Although he hasn’t acted to cut the program yet, he has ordered federal agencies to investigate how unspecified alterations can be made.
Trump’s efforts to limit travel from Muslim countries, now stymied by the courts, are also of concern to employers. In February, as that drama was unfolding, telecommunications giant Comcast also gave its employees time off to protest the travel ban. A statement by Comcast spokesman, John Demming, said:
We understand that some of our employees are concerned and we respect their desire to express their opinions. Our primary focus is to make sure that all of our employees feel safe in their jobs, including while traveling.
International Workers’ Day is typically the province of workers and their unions, not of employers. The dynamic that is putting them on the same side of the work-world equation is an interesting one.
Like Fauna, many of the affected businesses are start-ups. The founder of Atipica, a small software company in San Francisco, is from Mexico. Laura Gómez has five U.S.-based employees, four of whom are immigrants. She said:
At this point in our political reality, it’s really, really important to allow my employees to do something that not only affects them, but also the direction of our country. This is what democracy looks like: people having the freedom to stand up for what they believe in.
Workers have exercised that freedom for decades — at least since passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which gave them protection to stand up for their rights. But for years, conservatives have steadily chipped away at these rights and undermined the effectiveness of labor unions.
It’s nothing short of phenomenal to witness employers and employees align themselves together — against the encroachments of a Republican administration.
Feature photo, Anti-Trump Immigration Protest via Wikimedia Commons.