Comcast's tech employees are planning a #MuslimBan rally Thursday afternoon - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 1, 2017 5:57 pm

Comcast’s tech employees are planning a #MuslimBan rally Thursday afternoon

Company executives have yet to speak on the issue, but CTO Sree Kotay announced his support of the rally and plans to participate.

Comcast HQ.

(Photo by Flickr user Ryan Hallock, used under a Creative Commons license)

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Comcast has yet to speak on President Trump’s recent immigration order, commonly known as the “Muslim ban,” but its employees are not waiting.

A group of employees on the media and tech giant’s Technology and Product team are planning a rally tomorrow at Comcast’s Center City headquarters at 2 p.m., according to multiple sources within the company. The rally will happen in other Comcast offices across the country, including Sunnyvale, Calif., and Washington, D.C., according to multiple internal sources.

“The self-organized group will stand in unity to express their views as citizens concerned about the effects of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants, refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries,” reads a statement, obtained by Technical.ly, that was shared with participating employees. “The group will use the hashtags #TechHasNoWalls and #include to share posts and photos on social media.”

Employees are organizing the protest in a Slack channel called #walkout in Comcast’s Technology and Product Slack. The company-wide #walkout channel had 1,000 people in it, as of 5:50 p.m., according to one source who asked to remain anonymous.

Comcast employees are encouraging other tech companies to join them on the walkout, two sources said.

We reached out to Comcast for comment and will update when we hear back. “We understand that some of our employees are concerned and we respect their desire to express their opinions,” Comcast spokesman John Demming said in a statement emailed to Technical.ly. “Our primary focus is to make sure that all of our employees feel safe in their jobs, including while traveling. We have assured our employees that no one will be asked to travel to a place that would result in them feeling vulnerable in any way. And, we have enhanced our employee resources programs to help any concerned employee navigate through this matter.”

As of Monday, a spokeswoman told us that the company had nothing to report on the issue of the immigration order. One source told us that the company had not issued any statements to its staff, except for a clarification on HR policies for travel.

It’s thorny territory for Comcast: just last week, on an earnings call, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said he was “encouraged” by the prospect of regulations that could “stimulate investment.”  The company has also praised Trump’s choice for FCC chair, Ajit Pai.

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“We’re looking forward to working with the new administration and the new regulatory leaders to try to frame something that’s good for consumers and give us a stable platform that we can invest (in),” Roberts said, according to a report in Variety.

The action follows Google’s #MuslimBan protest on Monday, in which cofounder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai participated. At least 1,000 employees attended the protest at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., office.

CTO Sree Kotay, himself an Indian immigrant, will join the rally, which, as one source put it, “provides a great deal of legitimacy to the effort,” though it’s not clear if other company leaders will participate.

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The organizing appeared to begin Wednesday morning with this message from Comcast engineering and dev manager Hai Thai:

Hai Thai [9:48 AM] @channel hello trainers, i know this is off topic for this channel, but i thought reaching out to this channel would be more effective. we are trying to hold a walkout event to make a statement about Trump’s recent immigration ban on Muslims. i’m sure you’ve heard about it on the news. if you support this, please join us tomorrow (thursday) at 2pm EDT outside of the Comcast Center. note that it’s fine that you don’t support this, and we respect your stand. but if you do support this, come join us! we need a lot more people to make a statement. we have a slack channel dedicated for this event: #walkout. thank you for your attention.

Later in the afternoon, Kotay chimed in, saying that he was “#proud” to join the walkout. He also noted that the rally would count as paid time off.

Sree Kotay [2:38 PM] Hey all (some news):

I appreciate your desire to express your views, as citizens, and I am #proud to join you tomorrow!

I did get a chance to talk to Bill Strahan (head of HR here) and others, and he and the team suggested a few things I hadn’t thought about.

First, the company is ABSOLUTELY supportive of our employees, and concerned first and foremost for their safety.

The time of the rally tomorrow will be paid time off.

Comcast will be coordinating with building security and the facilities teams, along with making sure we notify the city appropriately (here and elsewhere).

As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” … feels like we want to maintain a tone of positivity, inclusion, and respect, even from those with whom we might disagree.

If *anyone* has any questions on safety, security, etc, feel absolutely free to reach out to Wayne Davis directly, T&P head of HR (redacted) …. or slack me

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's editorial product lead after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

  • Comcast Guy

    Bad move on Comcast’s part. There are many Trump supporters in these tech teams. Also the tech people could careless about the muslim ban, all they care about is the proposed H-1B visa changes. However those changes haven’t happened yet.

    • Boon

      From what I gather, this isn’t on “Comcast’s part” but rather just employees genuinely concerned about the ban, which would also lead me to believe it’s not just that they care about the H-1B. I also don’t believe this is anti-Trump but rather just pro-friends/family/loved ones that are affected.

      • Comcast Guy

        Comcast is actually letting employees take off to join the protest. It is definitely sanctioned.

    • MontcoHero

      Disjointed/confusing comment. Some thoughts:
      1. It’s Comcast employees organizing, not corporate.
      2. It has nothing to do with Trump supporters, so don’t make it about yourself or them. Nowhere in the comments from the organizers do I see Trump supporters (or even people supportive of the ban) being singled out or ostracized.
      3. The “tech people” comment seems like a broad generalization.
      4. You can discuss The H-1B visas when it comes to pass, until then, people are focusing on the Muslim ban, which is an actual executive order that was handed down.

      • Comcast Guy

        Comcast is officially supporting it. They are allowing employees to take time off to join it and are promoting it internally.

        • Freedom For All

          Do you work for Comcast? Have you asked Comcast if you can speak on their behalf? Your screen name implies that you are part of the SLT when I’d be willing to guess that you are not.
          And Comcast is supporting its employees in establishing a peaceful protest against an executive order that could result in some people being kicked out of the country because of their faith. That’s about as American as it gets. Kudos to Comcast.

          • The executive order says nothing about kicking people out, it’s only about who we let in…

  • SGT JT

    People in our country are fed up with when you call tech. support you get a foreigner on line instead of an American! I personally will only talk to an American I can understand, and another thing why does Comcast share all of our pertinent information with foreigners without our permission. as for Trump’s ban on muslims the majority of Americans are for it though he should use a little more tack in the way he explains it to people, we as a nation are govern by laws if a law is unjust the executive branches will intervene until then it is law. God Bless America

    • MontcoHero

      Congrats on having the most disjointed comment on the Internet today!

  • Jon Frey

    This won’t help Comcast’s bottom line, especially with their overpriced telephone service. Try switching to a local company such as http://www.penntelco.com that supports local businesses and workers!

  • Essie Rogers

    Very glad they stood up for what was right. I’m sick of seeing people just accept these heinous things Trump is doing. Comcast (https://cabletvinternet.s9.com/xfinity-high-speed-internet-plans-.html) and its employees are setting good examples for others to stand up for what they believe in.

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