A senior executive at Oracle has publicly resigned after the technology company’s co-CEO Safra Catz joined the Trump transition team and expressed support for the president-elect.
Catz [pictured here] had attended last week’s meeting of tech leaders at Trump Tower in New York before accepting the position. Prior to the meeting, Catz said:
“I plan to tell the president-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can. If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation and negotiate better trade deals, the US technology industry will be stronger and more competitive than ever.”
George Polisner, 57, who had worked at Oracle on and off since 1993, posted his resignation letter to LinkedIn, outlining concerns over Trump’s choice of cabinet, tax and environmental policies as well as the stoking of fear and hatred towards minorities.
“I am not with President-elect Trump and I am not here to help him in any way,” he said in the post, which has been read more than 150,000 times. “In fact when his policies border on the unconstitutional, the criminal and the morally unjust I am here to oppose him in every possible and legal way. Therefore I must resign from this once great company.”
Speaking to the Guardian on Wednesday, Polisner -- a progressive political activist and chair of the Democratic central committee in his home county in Oregon -- said that he was at a point in his career where he felt he could “make a statement”.
“It’s a demonstration, a credible action as opposed to an expression of frustration,” he said. “Although from a personal economic perspective I’ve probably made better decisions!”
“I thought I could either be a role model in terms of a path forward or a cautionary tale,” he joked.
Polisner would not have resigned so publicly had Catz taken a leave of absence from Oracle to pursue the role with the Trump administration as a private citizen. “I would have been disappointed in her personally, but I would have respected her decision.” he said.
“The Trump administration has been on record talking about creating a Muslim registry and doing a number of things that will cause profound societal damage to the most vulnerable and I wanted no part of that.”
Once he made his mind up to resign, he told his manager before sending the letter to Catz and simultaneously publishing to LinkedIn. “I decided it was too important to die as a private letter.”
Polisner said that it’s important for technology companies to have dialogue with the Trump administration, as happened at last week’s roundtable attended by execs from companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM and Oracle.
“There’s incredible intellectual capacity in the technology space that can be used for good, so the meeting was appropriate for expressing how technology companies see the way forward. It’s better to have a seat at the table.”
This appears to be the view of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, according to his response to the staff who questioned how important it was for the company to engage with the president-elect in a private Q&A.
“It’s very important,” Cook said. “Governments can affect our ability to do what we do. They can affect it in positive ways and they can affect in not so positive ways. What we do is focus on the policies.”
“We very much stand up for what we believe in. We think that’s a key part of what Apple is about. And we’ll continue to do so,” he added.
However, Polisner remains concerned about how the president-elect could use technology as a tool to concentrate wealth and power and oppress vulnerable parts of society.
“In my mind the table has already been set and they are not going to listen to a tech person who says ‘this may not work out so well’ because they’ve already calculated the impact to the balance sheet.”
In the last 24 hours he’s received around 500 messages (around 90% of which are supportive, he said) both from colleagues at Oracle and other people in the technology industry unhappy about how executives are cosying up to Trump. He’s been in touch with some staffers at IBM who have signed a petition urging their CEO Ginni Rometty to stand up to Trump.
What’s Polisner planning to do with his newfound spare time?
“Take a zen breath from all of this,” he said. The next challenge is to build tools to unite disparate groups of progressives to take political action that goes beyond “resisting bad policy”.
“I would love to figure out how we can build a loosely coupled network for progressives, so people can have autonomy and freedom of thought but work together in a crisis.”
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