Hundreds of Comcast employees walked off the job and took to the streets Thursday afternoon in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigration from seven majority Muslim countries.
By 2:30 p.m., the crowd at City Hall had swelled to more than 1,000 people holding signs, chanting and listening to short stories told by their immigrant coworkers. The rally lasted just an hour, but garnered support from even some top employees at the corporation.
Comcast employees in at least four cities self-organized the protest through an internal Slack channel that Comcast organizers told Billy Penn grew from about 100 people to 1,200 people this week. Comcast is one of the largest employers in the Philadelphia region and stands as the most influential corporation in the city.
In Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered, the one-hour rally began at 2 p.m. Thursday at the plaza outside the Comcast Center at 17th and JFK. Others in the Philadelphia tech sector were encouraged by organizers to attend, and as hundreds and bordering on thousands of protesters joined in the march. Comcast campuses in Washington, D.C., New York City (SoHo) and Sunnyvale, CA help their own rallies, as well.
The action was not technically a “walk-out” as the company offered paid time off to anyone taking part in the demonstration.
Comcast Chief Technology Officer Sree Kotay, an immigrant from India, stood front and center at the rally. He said after the rally wrapped up that he was supporting the demonstration 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.”
Comcast spokesman John Demming released a statement saying: “Our primary focus is to make sure that all of our employees feel safe in their jobs, including while traveling. We have assured our employees that no one will be asked to travel to a place that would result in them feeling vulnerable in any way. And, we have enhanced our employee resources programs to help any concerned employee navigate through this matter.”
An organizer of the rally told Billy Penn that the focus wasn’t against Comcast as a corporation but was instead a way for employees to speak their mind about the president’s executive order.