American business in the political arena

Since the Politico media leaked on May 2 that the Supreme Court was preparing to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, which since 1973 has guaranteed the right to abortion in the United States, large firms have decided to mobilize. Apple, Amazon, Citigroup, Levi Strauss have announced that they will include in their employees’ health coverage a reimbursement of travel expenses and medical care for their employees living in states that restrict or prohibit abortion. Measures accompanied by strong opinions. “A scary day for women,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, then Facebook’s COO, on May 3.

Seen from Europe, these attitudes raise questions. What interest can push big brands out of their role in making their business flourish to take part in societal debates? In the United States, unlike France, companies can fund political parties and campaigns without borders, and do not hesitate to do so. But their motivation goes beyond this framework. “It can be summed up in two words: the pressure from their customers and their employees,” sums up Jean-Louis Gassée, the founder of Apple France, a keen observer of the customs of Silicon Valley, where he has lived for thirty years. An injunction favored by the emergence of social networks, which has become a political arena.

Reaction to Trump

It was the presidential campaign in 2016 led by the very divisive Donald Trump that triggered the movement. Wind against the US “Muslim registry” project he proposed, 1,400 tech staff at Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft sign Never Again Pledge, promising to refuse to collaborate on data collection based on race or religion. In March 2018, the revelation of Google’s partnership with the U.S. Army to deliver a mass surveillance tool revolted in the California group: 4,000 employees called for an end to this secret contract, which will not be renewed.

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