Generally speaking, companies like to keep their politics confined to lobbying, donations to political action committees, and, occasionally, a plot to melt the polar ice caps. In short, quiet.
But on the subject of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, CEOs seem to be finding silence an increasingly untenable option. Motivated by public pressure, the plight of employees, and a higher sense of American ideals, the heads of America’s largest companies have dared, with varying degrees of vigor, to criticize the president—despite his penchant to send stock prices plummeting with a single tweet.
The backlash began in Silicon Valley on Friday afternoon, shortly after Trump’s order was released, with a public statement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and continued with critiques by the chief executives of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called the order “un-American.” A burgeoning boycott of Uber revealed the pitfalls of dawdling on the subject; founder and chief Travis Kalanick issued a second statement on Sunday making his opposition to the ban explicit.
Also on Sunday, the CEOs of General Electric and Nike told employees they opposed the ban. On Monday, the CEOs of Ford, Coca-Cola, and Goldman Sachs also made their opposition known to employees, in messages that were later made public.
Do liberals engage in hypocrisy when they celebrate this type of corporate political commentary? Maybe. It’s a fine line between corporate politics for the bottom line and corporate politics for a higher ideal—especially with consumer brands whose success depends on popular opinion.
Of course, many of these grandiloquent statements should be taken as just one side of what John Cassidy calls “corporate America’s Janus-faced attitude to the Trump Administration.” As Cassidy points out, the National Association of Manufacturers—which includes representatives from GE and other major companies—spent the weekend running ads for EPA nominee and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt. Facebook, meanwhile, retains Trump supporter Peter Thiel on its board. Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who sought modifications to the Trump order from his Twitter followers, continue to serve on a business council that has so far done more to legitimize Trump than to influence him. A Monday statement from IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who also serves on Trump’s business council, was a gutless ode to “diversity, inclusion, and tolerance” that stopped short of even mentioning the president’s order, which was both intended to discriminate against Muslims and will do so in practice.
That said, here are four of the more effective corporate statements against the travel ban:
In one of the weekend’s more sternly worded letters, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees to its 238,000-person workforce over the next five years. He also reiterated his support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers services to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. (Though we should point out that Chobani already makes hiring refugees a priority, a practice that has made the company the target of right-wing threats.)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote to employees on Monday to say that the company would support the Washington state attorney general’s suit against the order, and that it would reach out to Congress to “explore legislative options.” It’s the latest in a series of public spats between Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, and Trump, who hates the Washington Post.
Google’s chief executives have been outspoken about their opposition to the ban and matched employees’ $2 million donation to a crisis fund for nonprofit groups. Founder Sergey Brin, the president of Google parent company Alphabet, showed up at the Saturday protest at San Francisco International Airport. “I’m here because I’m a refugee,” he told a Forbes reporter. But Google especially earns a shoutout because of its workplace walkout, which, while supported by management, was organized by employees. Where pro-immigrant, pro-refugee sentiment runs deep, leaders are more likely to be held to their promises.
The St. Louis lager released its Super Bowl ad Tuesday, and it’s all about immigration. Watch it for yourself:
And now read Budweiser vice president Ricardo Marques’ commentary, to Ad Week, on the subject matter of the advertisement: “There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country,” he told the magazine (italics mine). “We believe this is a universal story that is very relevant today because probably more than any other period in history today the world pulls you in different directions, and it’s never been harder to stick to your guns.”
Indeed, it sounds like someone is having trouble sticking to his guns. No matter; the ad is an impeccably timed political statement regardless of Budweiser’s intentions. Look for Trump to rage-tweet about it during the Super Bowl on Sunday.