250 Microsoft Employees Call on CEO to Cancel Police Contracts and Support Defunding Seattle PD
The letter also asks for the resignation of Seattle’s mayor and for full support of Black Lives Matter
Hundreds of Microsoft employees have signed a letter to the company’s top executives asking for Microsoft to take action in the wake of national protests. The letter, which was obtained by OneZero, requests that Microsoft cancel contracts with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and other law enforcement agencies, asks the company to formally support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and calls for the resignation of the Seattle mayor.
The email, which eventually included more than 250 employees CC’d in solidarity, was sent in the early hours of Monday, June 8, and was addressed to Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, and executive vice president, Kurt DelBene, with the subject line “Our neighborhood has been turned into a warzone.”
Much of the email focused on the protests and police response in Seattle. “Every one of us in the CC line are either firsthand witnesses or direct victims to the inhumane responses of SPD to peaceful protesting,” the letter said, according to the copy obtained by OneZero.
“Every one of us in the CC line are either firsthand witnesses or direct victims to the inhumane responses of SPD to peaceful protesting.”
The employee who authored the email indicated that they live in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where protests have become increasingly violent. On Sunday, June 7, a gunman drove into a crowd of protesters in the neighborhood, shooting a protester before surrendering to police.
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The email to the Microsoft executives includes a list of requests, including increased leniency for Microsoft workers in performance reviews due to the coronavirus pandemic and protests; the company formally condemning the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flashbangs; increasing Microsoft’s employee donation matches; the cancellation of contracts with SPD and other law enforcement agencies; support for defunding the SPD; signing a petition for the resignation of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan; and support for a list of demands from BLM Seattle. Employees volunteered to be CC’d on the email in a show of solidarity, though their inclusion was not intended to show explicit support for every request, according to the email.
While the original email only CC’d 20 employees, as the email spread across Microsoft, hundreds more employees asked to be included.
“Those who choose to support the movement in ways other than boots-on-the-ground protests have also suffered the results of the SPD response,” one employee wrote in the email thread. “Tear gas streams into apartments through cracks in the wall as far as a mile away. The sound of flashbangs and fired tear gas canisters reverberates through the night, past 2 to 3 a.m. most days this week, including last night. Worse yet is the fear and stress that these employees are dealing with, fear that has been compounded by SPD’s ever-escalating response.”
That author wrote that they had been teargassed three times and hit with a flashbang once, and mentioned a video circulating of another Microsoft employee put into a chokehold and dragged to the ground by Seattle police.
The email to Nadella and DelBene was first drafted and sent to the Facebook group Young Microsoft FTEs around 1 a.m. Pacific time on Monday, June 8. The Facebook group has been a forum for employee organizing in the past: In September 2019, hundreds of employees anonymously shared their compensation information so that others could more effectively bargain for raises.
The employee wrote in the email that they had been teargassed three times and hit with a flashbang once.
In a statement from Microsoft, Nadella said, “As a company, we need to look inside, examine our organization, and do better.” Nadella’s statement largely mirrored a June 5 blog post addressing the protests.
Microsoft isn’t the only tech company where employees are organizing in the wake of the protests. Facebook employees have voiced an unprecedented amount of public criticism for the social media giant’s policies regarding inflammatory posts made by President Donald Trump.
“I’m deeply ashamed of working in a company that gives free rein to a racist post because it is by a politician,” a Facebook employee who resigned because of the company’s decision to keep the posts up told Recode.
Facebook content moderators also sent the company an open letter, saying that Facebook was being manipulated by Trump and that they would walk out if their circumstances allowed it.
Microsoft employees are making a direct request to the company’s executives to intervene in the city’s political landscape.
“Every passing day, we feel that our fellow co-workers, managers, and leaders who live miles away outside of Seattle are severely disconnected to the violent reality thousands of people have been facing every single day since last Saturday. 24/7 helicopter noise, teargassing, flashbanging, rubber bullets, gun shots, and vans/buses filled with armed law enforcement,” the email to Nadella and DelBene reads. “We need leaders like yourselves to help bridge this gap of disconnection, misinformation, and complacency.”
The email in its entirety reads:
Note: Not every point here may reflect the opinions of those on the cc line. Due to the urgency of this email, we did not have time to create and agree on the content of this email. Nonetheless we are all in agreement that our neighborhood has been turned into warzone escalated by SPD and that our coworkers and leaders need to know what is happening. We need awareness and empathy across every level of management asap so that the burden of educating our coworkers doesn’t fall on those of us in the middle of a public safety and mental health crisis.
Dear Satya and Kurt,
I am writing to you in serious urgency. For the past 15+ minutes, there has been nonstop gas and flashbang explosions in my neighborhood Capitol Hill, Seattle — which you may know is home to many of your employees. Every one of us in the cc line are either first-hand witnesses or direct victims to the inhumane responses of SPD to peaceful protesting. As if Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday night was not enough, once again our streets and homes have been filled with gas. Earlier in the day, a man drove his car into a crowd full of protestors and shot a protestor who was trying to stop him. He immediately fled to SPD who then politely escorted him to the precinct.
This week has flipped our world upside down (once again). It doesn’t help that major new networks (Komo, Kiro) are failing to report accurate updates on the Seattle protests against police brutality. Every passing day, we feel that our fellow coworkers, managers, and leaders who live miles away outside of Seattle are severely disconnected to the violent reality thousands of people have been facing every single day since last Saturday. 24/7 helicopter noise, teargassing, flashbanging, rubber bullet, gun shots, and vans/buses filled with armed law enforcement. We need leaders like yourselves to help bridge this gap of disconnection, misinformation, and complacency.
As long-time residents of the Puget Sound community, employers who care about the wellbeing and safety of your employees, and supporters of racial equity please consider the following suggestions:
- Recognize these are extraordinary, historical times wrt civil rights, racial justice, and policing both for Seattle and the entire nation
- Train and advise management across all orgs to expect at least 50% reduced productivity [Leaders in Google have started this practice as well]
- Management should also formally assure all employees that any reduced productivity due to covid19/protests will not affect their annual performance reviews
- Formal 4-day work week policy
- Condemn the use of teargassing, rubber bullets, and flashbanging on peaceful protestors
- Encourage those able to– especially management and leadership — to max out their $15k GIVE match limit and provide list of recommended charities (ex. NW bail fund, black lives matter)
- Increase Employee Match to 2x-3x [Other companies like Netflix, Google, and Apple have done this]
- Cancel our contracts with SPD and other law enforcement bodies
- Sign the petition for the resignation of Mayor Durkan for her failure to protect her people and keep police accountable
- Support the defunding and demilitarization of SPD
- Support Black Lives Matter Seattle’s List of Demands
For evidence, live footage, and more latest updates on the Seattle protests in Capitol Hill I recommend going to the following grassroots sources: #SeattleProtest on Twitter, LIVE Twitch camera stream of 11th+Pike St. I also wholeheartedly welcome any questions or concerns you have, many of us are eager to share more details.