yesLevi SumagaysayNone
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

People

Oracle employees log off to protest Ellison’s Trump fundraiser

Business experts say Ellison's actions are business as usual, but some employees see it differently.

Oracle chair Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison's decision to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump prompted a protest by Oracle staffers Thursday.

Photo: Getty Images North America

When about 300 Oracle employees staged a virtual walkout on Thursday, they were protesting Chairman Larry Ellison's decision to host a fundraiser for President Trump this week, according to an organizer. Many expressed dismay. Why would Ellison support Trump so publicly? The financial support "damages our company," employees wrote in a petition that now has more than 8,300 signatures. But experts say that Ellison's support of the president is most likely all about protecting Oracle's business interests.

Companies as big as Oracle need to stay in the government's good graces. "When you get any industry that gets big enough, whether it's oil and the railroads, or automakers, or tech, they have different relationships with lawmakers," said Margaret O'Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington who researches Silicon Valley. She said as tech has become increasingly dominant, leaders like Ellison may feel the need to engage with the administration even in the face of employee opposition.

Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.

But Oracle may need the administration even more than other companies, at least right now.

The company is locked in a high-profile suit against Google. On Wednesday, the Trump administration submitted an amicus brief taking Oracle's side in the long-running copyright fight between Google and Oracle, which is going to be heard by the Supreme Court next month. There seems to be "crony capitalism going on with the Google-Oracle case. It does smell bad," said Jeff Cowie, a fellow at Stanford and a Vanderbilt University history professor who has written books on labor and politics.

This administration has been good to big business in general, notes Rebecca Eisler, assistant professor of political science at San Francisco State University. "The administration's position toward business and industry, broadly speaking, has been in support of deregulation, tax incentives and subsidies," she said.

Ellison, who co-founded the Redwood Shores-based database company and is No. 7 on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, called himself a lifelong Democrat and a Bill Clinton fan in a Playboy interview in 2002. But since then he has supported politicians on both sides of the aisle: He donated to a political action committee for Republican Mitt Romney when he ran for president; hosted President Barack Obama on a weekend golfing trip; and hosted fundraisers for Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

"I remember many years ago when he was talking to engineering, he said he was a Democrat," said Pearl Ong, a software engineer who has worked at Oracle for more than 20 years. "Then I saw a couple years ago he was supporting Marco Rubio. But to have a fundraiser for Dumpster? I can't believe it."

Ong — who speculated that Ellison may be holding out hope that Oracle still has a chance to win the JEDI cloud-computing contract from the Pentagon — is one of the thousands of employees who has signed the petition, which called on the company leadership to urge Ellison to cancel the fundraiser.

"Every year Oracle employees must take ethics, harassment and diversity training reflecting Oracle's stated values of responsible business practice and treating everyone fairly and with respect," wrote Joe McClintock, another software engineer, in the petition. "Larry Ellison is the face of Oracle and as such he is supporting a person who is the antithesis of these values? This is so, so wrong."

Another employee, Steven Feuerstein, tweeted: "For me, opposition to Trump is no longer a matter of political viewpoint, of disagreeing with his mostly awful policies. It is a matter of whether you believe in the rule of law."

One of the organizers of Thursday's worker action — which asked employees to log off and spend the rest of the day contributing to causes such as immigration, gender equity or the environment — said the company also forbids making political donations on behalf of Oracle.

While Ellison may have been acting as a private citizen, it's hard to see him as such, said the organizer, an Oracle employee based in New York. "It's really hard not to see Larry Ellison as chairman, not to mention his symbolic meaning to the company," she said.

Several Oracle employees told Protocol the company has not addressed the worker actions at all. No emails or announcements. But the organizer said a handful of others were unable to access the worker-action website from their work laptops Thursday, getting the following error message when they tried: "Access to this site may not be permitted by the Oracle Acceptable Use Policy."

"The site was not intentionally blocked by Oracle," said company spokesperson Deborah Hellinger. "It was temporarily blocked by a 'false positive' from our McAfee network security and antivirus software."

The organizer also said her manager had told her that Ellison "is asking our bosses about us." She said that some employees partaking in Thursday's action fear the company could retaliate.

An Oracle spokesperson said the company would have no comment on the worker action.

Despite the fact that "everything has become political" in Silicon Valley, as O'Mara puts it, the Oracle employees' actions were relatively small compared with other higher-profile walkouts at companies like Google. And the Oracle action was not universally supported within the company. "If Larry wants to support Trump as a citizen of this nation, he has that right, and I support it (may not agree with it but that is not the point)," said Todd Fitzwater, a VP at Oracle Netsuite. Other employees expressed similar sentiments in the comments section of the petition.

But as recent employee activism in the valley has shown, if the Oracle protests continue or grow it could become a bigger problem for the company. "Silicon Valley has always been about the people, we shouldn't underestimate that," O'Mara said.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Protocol | Enterprise

Inside Christian Klein’s determined bid to remake SAP

The 40-year-old, first-time CEO has a tough road ahead of him in turning around the nearly 50-year-old vendor.

Christian Klein became SAP's sole CEO in April.
Photo: Picture Alliance/Getty Images

On April 19, the day before SAP announced that Christian Klein would take over as sole CEO of the German software giant, his wife joked that she was going into labor with their second child.

That joke became a reality at 2 a.m. the next day.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Enterprise

Why Oracle and SAP are fighting over startups

Did someone mention a chance to burnish reputations and juice balance sheets?

New cloud-based offerings and favorable contract terms are convincing startups to switch to software from Oracle and SAP earlier in their lives than your might expect.
Jane Seidel

In the hunt for their next big-ticket customers, SAP and Oracle are trying to cast off reputations as stodgy tech providers by making a huge push to provide their software to startups.

Both companies have found themselves in choppy waters recently as potential customers have turned to the cloud, shunning the on-premises solutions SAP and Oracle are known for. That's coupled with a global pandemic that dried up demand for the expensive enterprise-grade software that drives profits at the vendors.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Enterprise

How Christian Klein’s reboot of SAP’s strategy is working out

The pandemic wasn't kind to the company. But the way it's working with the major COVID-19 vaccine makers is a model for what comes next.

Christian Klein became SAP's sole CEO in April.

Photo: Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Christian Klein took over as SAP's sole CEO in April. It wasn't an ideal time to take the helm of an organization that sells expensive enterprise software.

As the spread of COVID-19 forced corporations everywhere to cut costs, one of the first places they looked was IT budgets. Specifically, companies around the world trimmed spending on back-end products, such as those offered by SAP, many of which still run via on-premise data centers.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

People

Tom Siebel takes a victory lap after C3.ai’s blockbuster debut on Wall Street

C3.ai raised $651 million in its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

C3.ai shares closed at $92.49 on Wednesday.

Photo: NYSE

Tom Siebel strikes again.

Shares of C3.ai, the company he founded in 2009, just went gangbusters on the company's first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Living up to its ticker "AI," the firm offers catered solutions that help clients like Shell and the U.S. Air Force, among others, predict when their machines may need maintenance.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Latest Stories