Tech has no borders

Comcast workers in Philadelphia were the latest tech industry employees to protest the ban on refugees and immigrants, write Nicole Colson and Henry Hillenbrand.

Comcast workers in Philadelphia stage a walkout in opposition to President Trump's Muslim banComcast workers in Philadelphia stage a walkout in opposition to President Trump's Muslim ban

SOME 600 Comcast workers in Philadelphia walked off the job February 2 to rally in solidarity with their immigrant co-workers in opposition to the Trump administration's travel ban on refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations.

During the short march from the Comcast Tower to City Hall, workers carried signs that read "Immigration innovation," and "Tech has no borders." As they marched, the crowd raised a variety of chants, including "No detention" and "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here."

Tech workers Hai Thai and Aaron Martin-Colby, who took the lead in organizing the march, kicked off the rally at City Hall, where speakers related stories about coming to the U.S. The rally was supported by Comcast management, which, like many other tech companies, relies on an immigrant workforce through the H-1B visa program.

But as Martin-Colby told the Philadelphia Inquirer, the walkout and rally were "absolutely employee-organized and initiated."

Comcast management said that it would pay employees who walked out and attended the rally for their time. Even so, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a recent conference call with reporters that the company looks forward to working with the Trump administration.

Using a real-time messaging app, the rally was organized in conjunction with Comcast workers in Silicon Valley--rallies also occurred at Comcast offices in Portland and Washington, D.C. This was the second protest of the week among tech industry workers taking a stand against Trump. Some 2,000 Google employees held similar rallies in several cities on January 30.

Thai told the crowd: "Wow. This is amazing," adding that in his "12 years at Comcast I have never felt happier than today."

According to the website BillyPenn.com, Comcast Chief Technology Officer Sree Kotay, an Indian immigrant, attended the rally "not as a representative of Comcast, but as a private citizen who wanted to express solidarity with those less privileged." "I'm so proud of my coworkers and colleagues," he said, adding: "If nothing else, the turbulent times have reawakened all of us to democracy being a participatory sport."

As one Comcast worker said on a bullhorn at the rally, "I'm a Muslim-American from Afghanistan, and I'm not a terrorist. I'm just like everyone else here."

In the days and weeks to come, encouraging more actions--on the job and off--in solidarity with immigrants will be key in pushing back the Trump agenda.