Microsoft employees unhappy with CEO response plan further action against ICE contract

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Some Microsoft employees are frustrated with the company’s response about its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and say they’re planning to press the company harder.

Two employees that The Hill spoke with on Wednesday said they intend to take further action following CEO Satya Nadella’s all-staff email to employees on Tuesday night about the company’s $19.4 million ICE contract. The letter came in response to an open letter from Microsoft employees urging Microsoft to end its contract with ICE and institute a policy against working with clients that break international human rights laws.

In his email, Nadella said that Microsoft criticized ICE’s practice of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, but did not say the company would end the contract.{mosads}

“The response was empty. It was shallow. He just said ‘we denounce it.’ It didn’t do anything,” said one of the employees who was involved in creating the open letter urging Microsoft to drop the contract.

The letter was first reported by The New York Times and subsequently obtained by The Hill.

The employee said that he and others were planning a follow-up response to express their displeasure with Nadella’s email but said they had not yet decided on a specific course of action.

Another employee that The Hill spoke with said that they and several co-workers were planning on organizing an effort against the contract at the forthcoming meeting for MSPAC, Microsoft’s political action committee.

The employee also expressed displeasure with Nadella’s response, praising the sentiment but criticizing its lack of action.

The Tech Workers Coalition, a labor group for tech workers, voiced its support for employee efforts on Wednesday.

We stand in solidarity with Microsoft workers who commit to never ‘just follow orders’ but to hold ourselves, each other, and the industry accountable,” a Tech Workers Coalition spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. “Detaining children in cages is against what the majority of tech workers stand for, and they don’t want to provide the technology that enables that to happen.”

Some Microsoft employees began mobilizing to oppose the contract after critics tweeted out a January blog post from Microsoft detailing its Azure service’s work with ICE.

The post struck a chord with employees who are opposed to ICE’s work generally, as well as its practice of separating families who cross the border illegally.

Several other Microsoft employees The Hill spoke with earlier in the week and prior to Nadella’s email also criticized Microsoft’s contract with ICE and said they hoped that the company would end it. Some said that other employees had expressed outrage over the contract in the company’s internal chat.

Nadella sent a company-wide email to employees on Wednesday in response to the open letter from workers asking that Microsoft drop its ICE contract.

“I want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border,” his email reads. “Our current cloud engagement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supporting legacy mail, calendar, messaging and document management workloads.”

Employees with whom The Hill spoke, however, suggested that helping ICE in any capacity was still too much.  

President Trump and the Department of Justice have faced massive blowback from lawmakers in both parties, as well as the public, over its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has led to the separations. On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order to end the forced separations.

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