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Corporate Criticism of Trump's Travel Ban Moves Beyond Tech -- Update

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01/31/2017 | 02:00am CEST
A Wall Street Journal Roundup 

Criticism of President Donald Trump's immigration order moved beyond Silicon Valley on Monday, with the heads of business giants including Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. weighing in on travel restrictions that have sown havoc at airports and sparked protests world-wide.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford and Chief Executive Mark Fields condemned the rules restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, describing the policy in a statement to employees as going against the company's values.

"Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world," the statement says. "That is why we do not support this policy."

The statement marks a change in tone among Ford's top leadership toward the new administration. In recent weeks, Messrs. Ford and Fields have praised Mr. Trump for pursuing policies beneficial to business and the broader economy.

Coke's Turkish-American chief executive, Muhtar Kent, also joined the ranks of chief executives to speak out Monday, saying in an emailed statement that the soda giant "is resolute in its commitment to diversity, fairness and inclusion, and we do not support this travel ban or any policy that is contrary to our core values and beliefs." The Atlanta-based company is still assessing the ban's impact on its employees, he added.

Goldman Sachs's more than 34,000 employees arrived at work Monday to find a voice mail from CEO Lloyd Blankfein denouncing the immigration ban. "This is not a policy we support," he said. "Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be."

The White House defended the rules on Monday, with Mr. Trump blaming a Delta Air Line Inc. computer outage and protesters for travel disruptions.

Monday's rebukes from executives follow sharp criticism from the technology industry over the weekend, which ended weeks of cautious engagement with the new president. Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., Uber Technologies Inc. and other companies expressed concern about the immigration order's effect on their employees, with some executives saying the ban violated their personal and company principles.

Google said more than 2,000 of its employees across eight U.S. offices gathered Monday to protest the order. A large crowd with anti-Trump and pro-immigration signs gathered at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Chief Executive Sundar Pichai spoke out against the policy, according to the company and photos posted to social media.

Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos on Monday weighed in with one of the strongest signs of corporate disapproval of the order, saying the e-commerce giant was working with lawmakers and state officials to explore legal options to counter Mr. Trump's move.

"To our employees in the U.S. and around the world who may be directly affected by this order, I want you to know that the full extent of Amazon's resources are behind you," Mr. Bezos wrote in an email to staff on Monday.

Some companies already are facing possible backlash to their stances against the immigration order.

Starbucks Corp. was facing threats of a boycott on Monday from some customers after Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz promised to hire 10,000 refugees globally over the next five years in response to Mr. Trump's order.

On Monday afternoon, the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was the highest trending topic on Twitter, with the number of tweets exceeding those about the Holocaust, following Holocaust Remembrance Day last week. Some customers said they took offense to the idea of jobs going to people who are not American citizens.

Greek yogurt brand Chobani Inc. employs about 300 refugees from Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East at its factories in upstate New York and Idaho. Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, who immigrated from Turkey in 1994, has been hiring refugees since 2010, and has received both criticism and praise for effort. "The 65 million people around the world who are displaced because of violence is not a political crisis, it's a humanitarian crisis," Mr. Ulukaya said in a letter to his employees following Mr. Trump's ban. If any of Chobani's employees or their families are affected by the action, "we'll have their backs every day," the letter said.

Corrections & Amplifications

This article was corrected at 11:34 a.m. ET because the original version incorrectly said Mark Fields was chairman and chief executive in the second paragraph. Bill Ford is the chairman of Ford Motor Co.

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