Hundreds turn out for tech rally against federal policies

Immigration, health care, science, housing and women's rights among the concerns as workers and CEOs vow to fight back

Under the slogan "don't wait for change, create it," hundreds of Silicon Valley workers and supporters rallied against President Donald Trump's administration’s policies on immigration, health care and other issues on Tuesday afternoon in front of Palo Alto City Hall.

The event, sponsored by Tech Stands Up, urged tech workers to promote the values of fact- and science-based truth, inclusion and diversity in the workplace, society and government.

The 26 speakers, from CEOs and venture capitalists to tech-company cafeteria workers, kicked off what organizers hope will grow into a movement to push back on federal policy changes and to make up for deficits that already exist in Silicon Valley, such as under-representation and pay inequality for women and minorities.

"Now is the time to stand up and show these values are more than hoodie slogans," McKensie Lock, Tech Stands Up member, said, noting the group has written a manifesto based on what they say are the Valley’s values.

The event took place on Pi Day because "love, like pi, is infinite," Tech Stands Up co-founder Amber Allred Taylor said.

A group of engineers from Palo Alto company TIBCO Software said they are concerned about the executive order travel ban and order to deport many undocumented immigrants.

Milind Duraphe, an engineer, has lived in the Bay Area for 19 years.

"I'm worried about tolerance. We always had freedom of speech," he said, citing attacks against the press and the singling out of groups of people, such as Muslims and immigrants, as potential forerunners to suppression.

Raj Mashruwala agreed.

"I feel very insecure. I've been in this country for 42 years," Mashruwala, an American citizen, said.

Silicon Valley could be hurt by new federal policies if they hinder the hiring of qualified immigrants. Immigrants have produced some of the area's best scientists, innovators and technologists, including many Nobel Prize winners, he added.

"The technology will go somewhere else," he said.

Others who weren’t necessarily technologists said they were supporting the rally because they are concerned for the nation.

"Where do you even begin? I just don't recognize this country under this administration," said Ginny Contento, a former teacher, who carried a colorful "Silicon Valley -- Powered by Diversity" sign.

Stan Sinberg was selling buttons and hats for Pi Day and ones with messages such as "Is it 2020 yet?" and "Another Nasty Woman Against Trump." Business appeared to be brisk.

"I was in swing states before the election, I hoped to go out of business on Election Day, but I didn’t," he said.

Brad Taylor, founder of Tech Stands Up, said that the organizers invited 15 nonprofit groups to participate, including the United Farm Workers, and groups supporting service workers and affordable housing and opposing the spread of misinformation (or what has otherwise been called "fake news") on the internet.

Aviv Ovadya, a technologist, represented a coalition of groups working to identify and quantify false information on the internet. The group is building an organization that can track what is read and the credibility of the sources to measure the impact of misinformation on the online "ecosystem." The group wants to collaborate with tech companies that have the data to gauge the extent of misinformation and to figure out ways to prevent its spread, he said.

Any Debaets, an engineer, said he is working on software that could help nonprofit groups manage databases and find the most efficient ways to distribute their information. One main goal is to create software that could help win Democratic congressional campaigns in 2018. The software would complement existing database and phone-banking software.

As an example, registered Democrats in a city could be identified by street of residence and targeted for a phone campaign to place signs in their yards, he said.

"We would work closely with people who have run urban and rural campaigns to identify what features would be useful," he said, noting they are currently finding and talking to campaign managers.

Taylor said a hackathon is planned for April 7-9 and is the next step to find ways to protect immigrants and refugees, free speech and freedom of the press.


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10 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm

[Post removed.]

67 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:11 pm

I'm an immigrant. I am not concerned at all about Trump's immigration policies. In fact, I would really like to see immigration reform that ends ILLEGAL immigration and diminishes H-1B visas granted to foreign workers at the expense of American workers.

I believe that immigration policy needs to be reformed. I certainly think that it should put the needs of American citizens before citizens of other countries. Immigration will always have a place for this nation. However, there are many issues (e.g., economic, cultural, etc.) that are interrelated with immigration.

I believe that H-1B visas should be given out lucidly on the basis of need in the job sector (and not just based upon the "need" for cheaper labor costs). If there is a need for agricultural workers, then more H-1B visas should be given to individuals who work in that sector. If the unemployment rate for American computer science graduates is higher than 5% (real employment for the field), then fewer H-1B visas should be given to foreign workers for that sector.

I also think that there are certain cultural components that must be considered in the vetting process too. A person who moves to this country must respect the laws and both individual and collective rights, liberties and laws provided by our Constitution. This isn't exclusive to religions. However, if a person puts their religious or cultural dogma ahead of respecting the rights and liberties of women or others in society, then this is not the country for which they should want to immigrate to.

34 people like this
Posted by Any Member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Here are two facts:

1) The Constitution for the United States vests all federal executive power in one person, a President of the United States of America. See Article II.

2) Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States of America.

Get over it.

19 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:21 pm

There is a separate visa for farm workers. The farm should be working to set up the visas. These are not people looking for permanent relocation - they are here for a period of time then go back home. There is an organized process for this. Think Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. I have extended family that bring in workers from Mexico to Wisconsin for about 8 months of the year. It works great for everyone and is coordinated with the government. The people who complain that they will not have workers are not following the process through organized farms. Yes it costs more but the workers get a fair wage.

18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm

The article assumes that all people are rallying against the policies. Not true - many there out of curiosity. They want to go to an event that has a relative amount of safety - not like the events in Berkley.

76 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:29 pm

Supporting immigration reforms and/or enforcing the current laws does not necessarily equate to one being anti-immigrant or racist. Personally I find it offensive to be labeled as such. Expecting reasonable border controls and vetting those entering our country is logical, just, and in the best interest of our citizens.

As a first generation product of immigrants I believe in the American ideal of freedom and opportunity. The contribution of immigrants and our rich diversity truly is a cornerstone of our nation's highest ideals. I also believe, as my mother and father did, that those seeking residency in our country should do so by following the rule of law. It took them several years to accomplish the immigration process. It wasn't quick and it wasn't easy.

My parents were not advantaged by any means. They came here with no formal education, advanced skills, and barely a penny to their name. They spoke little or no English. What they did bring was a strong work ethic and sense of respect for this country. We celebrated and cherished our heritage, but embraced and assimilated to our adopted home. If they could do it, anyone can do it.

We should balance reasonable immigration reforms and vetting that will address the health and safety of all of our citizens. At the same time those reforms should provide an equally reasonable path to citizenship and residency for those seeking entry into the US, and especially to those who have lived here for many years and have been law abiding, hard working, and positive, contributing members of our society.

51 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:39 pm

This demonstration is no surprise as Silicon Valley depends on the exploitation of these workers at the expense of US citizens.

First, our California universities give preference for international students in order to get the lucrative tuition revenue which makes up as much as 34% of enrollment at some California universities. This crowds out domestic students who must compete with the top 1% of applicants from around the world. For the lucky ones who make it, their time to complete their degree is often extended to five years as they wait for openings in required classes.

After our kids have racked up an average of over $37K in student loan debt they then have to cope with an unfair immigration policy. According to a Goldman Sachs report in February, almost 1 million H1-B visa owners are currently holding college level jobs in the US. High Tech companies like them because they have a below market salary cap (Typically $65K/year) and they cannot leave their host employer without risking losing legal status.

If our kids are fortunate enough to find a job, it may not last long as millions of jobs have been outsourced to China and India since 2001. The executives offer two for one specials so that for every US worker fired, the managers can hire two overseas. Nepotism reigns supreme as the managers in the home countries hire mostly friends and family from the local village. Sham programming certification companies rush in to offer a six week programming courses. Resumes and years of experience are exaggerated.

So if anybody should be protesting, it should be our US citizen college kids. Of course, I doubt their employers would give them time off to protest or that they would get the coverage they deserve from the biased media.

81 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 11:55 pm

The Silicon Valley business model explained:

1. Eliminate as many jobs as possible by developing automation.
2. Export any jobs that can't be easily automated to low-wage nations.
3. Import workers from low-wage nations to suppress wages for all of the jobs that can't be exported.

Pretend it is all about inclusion and diversity. If anyone challenges the model, call them a "raciss".

29 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:13 am gradually being delegitimized and lumped in with CNN, KQED and other formerly-trusted "news" organizations whos journalistic integrity evaporated out of an obsessive, collective, bullying hatred towards one man and now their groupthink is hellbent on sabotaging our nation to the point that no one will be able to stand their rancor, will stop listening and reading entirely and so these organizations slide into irrelevance to be replaced by rising, alternative news sources (US) that report neutrally without a morally preening imperative that skews the coverage so heavily

Maybe it's the hair?

34 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:53 am

@Ahem you left out a few things:

4. Sell company stock
5. Build own wall around own house
6. Hire "low wage" workers to clean/cook/garden

18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:54 am

I agree with a lot of what Sanctimonious says. I also think this is the beginning of a lot more protest and noise. I think there would have been a lot more people there if there had been better advertising of the event. The media did not get hold of it in advance and rentamob didn't turn up.

However, I think it is wrong to think that those on H1b visas are the cheap option for employers. I think that they are getting the going rate for high quality engineers. I think that employers are giving jobs to foreign workers because those are the ones who have been trained to do the work. They have grown up valuing their education and looking for it as a means to an end, i.e. getting a job, rather than as a means to "finding themselves" or "following a passion". Too many American educated young people earn degrees on feel good subjects and expect to find a good job at the end when really they have few employment skills. Too many (particularly local) college grads have never had to flip burgers or bus tables to get themselves through college. Too many local college grads are good on text book knowledge, but when thrown a curve ball in the important technical part of the interview process, they flounder. They repeat text book scenarios and when things are outside the text book answers to the questions, they either make something up or are afraid to say they don't know the answer when the right answer would be to admit their lack of experience and go get help from someone who knows how to solve the problem.

If you ask the employers why they prefer giving jobs to those H1b candidates, they will tell you that they give the impression of becoming a better employee for all sorts of reasons than those US citizens who think the world owes them a job as a reward for getting their degree.

The real solution is to look back at our education system and the way we are raising our young people. Certainly from what I see in Palo Alto, the teens are not getting after school jobs to get basic work experience and they are being given all they need materially so that they don't understand the need to scrimp and save to acquire the things they would like in life. Giving the impression to a prospect employer that they are not doing it the way the teachers and textbooks prescribe, is not the way to enter a job. Getting a job is not the be all and all of starting a career, but still part of the experience of learning. When American educated people start understanding the real world a lot better and are educated to fit in to an established business culture, they will do a lot better. Unless of course they are going to start their own startup in their garage and can change the world. Unfortunately, for all the startups that make it, there are a whole lot more that fail. Fact of Life. They don't teach that in school here.

17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 15, 2017 at 9:01 am

Does any one read the newspapers? Somalia - the pirates are at it again and have taken an oil tanker. So Somalia is back into the pirate business and we will have to put out for surveillance to stop it. That is our taxpayer money being spent. Columbia - the cocaine growing is going full boar and they are now ripping out regular food crops to put in more for cocaine. And where is that cocaine headed? We pay Columbia to not grow cocaine and it has backfired. Use that money for the wall. Is anyone here connecting the dots? What is happening now is that you all are empowering this weird assortment of lawless people. And what do you get out of this - lawless is just that - lawless.

4 people like this
Posted by Fear
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 15, 2017 at 9:27 am

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Feae
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:09 am

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:14 am

"you knew damn well I was a snake
before you took me in"

14 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 15, 2017 at 11:16 am

Hate to say it, but have to point out that from photos, doesn't exactly look like the "Tech Community" was well represented. Unless they were involved in ARPANET.

5 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 15, 2017 at 11:25 am

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Amazing
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 11:35 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

6 people like this
Posted by not a SW Engineer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I agree with "the Resident - a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood" on all points

I am a former H1 visa holder. I was with my husband, who came on a scientific visa. I was offered an H-1 (& accepted) after volunteering, in WA, then another one in CA - yes a different employer can re-open if you are still within a 6-year total allowed for this visa. My present employer transferred my visa from my 2nd US employer & applied for a GC for me 16 years ago. I am not a SW engineer. My degrees are non-US.

My wages while on H1 have been along the prevailing (median market) range - the visa requirement.

I agree that H1 is abused by SW "consulting" companies.

I'd like people who commented/commenting & saying that they are immigrants or children of immigrants to indicate what kind of immigrants - there is a lot of family, religious, & other types of immigration that are abused as well

10 people like this
Posted by Wholly Moley
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:21 pm

"Does any one read the newspapers? Somalia - the pirates are at it again and have taken an oil tanker."

Nonsense. Republican Candidate for President of the United States Donald J. Trump told us that all illegal activity would just stop as soon as he took the oath of office. This alleged incident is therefore fake news by the liberal media, yet another futile attempt to discredit our Fantastic Leader.

14 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

@ Wholly Moley:

You wrote: "Nonsense. Republican Candidate for President of the United States Donald J. Trump told us that all illegal activity would just stop as soon as he took the oath of office."

No, he didn't.

6 people like this
Posted by Wholly Moley
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

"You wrote: "Nonsense. Republican Candidate for President of the United States Donald J. Trump told us that all illegal activity would just stop as soon as he took the oath of office."

No, he didn't."

I can't blame you for paying no attention to what Trump says, but he said this. Watch (and listen to) the video of his Cleveland acceptance speech. No more crime under President Trump.

You better hurry and catch it before he says the opposite, like he did with his longtime nugget about Obama being born in Kenya.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:17 pm

[Post removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Wholly Moley:

You can blame me for whatever you want, but that doesn't make your claim true.

Please provide a link to the moment in his Cleveland speech where he said "ALL ILLEGAL ACTIVITY WOULD STOP JUST AS SOON AS he took the oath of office."

Even if you gave an entirely literal interpretation to some hyperbole in his speech (such and such will "stop after I am inaugurated"), I wonder if you did the same thing with Mr. Obama's lofty speeches. I am still waiting to keep my plan, my doctor and for my insurance prices to go down by $2500. I was waiting for the "summer of recovery" in 2009 that was promised with the passage of the president's economic policies (even while unemployment continued to climb for another 20 months). Of course, with all of the ambiguous "jobs that were saved or created" disguising the real status quo that became the "new normal," I suspect that you were willing to give Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, this is why Obama hurt the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, his rhetoric didn't match the facts. Democrats lost both houses of Congress, a record number of gubernatorial seats and more than 1000 state seats during his presidency.

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