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Employees Of Another Major Tech Company Are Petitioning Government Contracts

Employees at Salesforce follow those at Microsoft, Amazon, and Google in pushing back against their companies' contracts with military and government agencies.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Salesforce chair and CEO Marc Benioff.

More than 650 Salesforce employees have signed a petition asking their employer to end a contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This marks the third major tech company, following Microsoft and Amazon, whose employees have protested when their company sells its technology to the government.

More than 100 Microsoft employees signed a petition asking the company to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after news broke of immigrant children being separated from their parents at the border. (Microsoft also attracted scrutiny last Monday over a company blog that discussed how Microsoft’s Azure cloud software has a role in enabling ICE to deliver services like "[accelerating] facial recognition and identification.") Amazon employees later sent a letter asking CEO Jeff Bezos to end contracts with government agencies seeking to use the company’s controversial facial recognition software.

Previously, a dozen Google employees resigned in opposition to the firm’s involvement with Project Maven, a Pentagon drone warfare initiative. Google has said it won’t renew its contract with the Pentagon.

In March, Salesforce signed a contract with CBP to build custom software for hiring purposes. Specifically, the agency is using a product called Community Cloud to “increase core human resources information technology capabilities for current and prospective employees, while at the same time, driving efficiencies throughout the process.”

“We are particularly concerned about the use of Service Cloud to manage border activities," the employees' letter reads. "Given the inhumane separation of children from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should reexamine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices."

The letter, which is addressed to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, asks that the company "craft a plan for examining the use of all our products, and the extent to which they are being used for harm."

Regarding the letter, a Salesforce spokesperson said in a statement, "One of the greatest things about being part of the Salesforce family is that we proudly foster an open exchange of ideas and dialogue. We’re proud of our employees for being passionate and vocal, and will continue the conversation on this and other important matters."

The Salesforce letter continues a recent trend of employee activism at tech companies in Silicon Valley, where there is fierce competition for programming talent. While so far only Google has changed its plans in response to employee organizing, the backlash against tech firms that hold military or immigration agency contracts is gaining momentum.

The full text of the letter, obtained by BuzzFeed News, and first reported on by Bloomberg, is below:

Dear Marc,

It has come to our attention as Salesforce employees that our products and tools (Einstein AnalyticsAnalytics Cloud, Community Cloud, and Service Cloud) are being used by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to modernize its staff recruiting process, manage border activities, and engage with citizens.

We are particularly concerned about the use of Service Cloud to manage border activities. Given the inhumane separation of children from their parents currently taking place at the border, we believe that our core value of Equality is at stake and that Salesforce should re-examine our contractual relationship with CBP and speak out against its practices.

We cannot cede responsibility for the use of the technology we create–particularly when we have reason to believe that it is being used to aid practices so irreconcilable to our values. Those values often feel abstract, and it is easier to uphold them when they are not being tested. They are being tested now.

Many of us choose to work at Salesforce because of Salesforce’s reputation as a company that stands up against injustice. We agree that the business of business is to improve the state of the world. We want our work at Salesforce to have a positive impact on our friends and neighbors, not to make us complicit in the inhumane treatment of vulnerable people.

As members of the Salesforce Ohana, we believe that Salesforce must stand with the families facing irrevocable and unimaginable harm at the hands of CBP. We believe that the moral and ethical emergency that CBP’s practices have created and in which we have become complicit compel us as an Ohana and you as our CEO to take action by re-examining our contractual relationship with CBP and speaking out against its current practices.

We recognize the explicit policy of separating children at the border has been stopped, but that simply returns us to a status quo of detaining children with their parents at the border. We believe it is vital for Salesforce to stand up against both the practice that inspired this letter and any future attempts to merely make this destructive state of affairs more palatable.

We believe that we must craft a plan for examining the use of all our products, and the extent to which they are being used for harm. We feel this is necessary to make good on our promise of being in the business of improving the world. Dismantling the structures of inequity is every bit as crucial as building foundations of care if those improvements are to last.

UPDATE

This post has been updated with a comment from Salesforce.


Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Caroline O'Donovan at caroline.odonovan@buzzfeed.com.

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