About 300 Oracle employees walked off the job on Thursday to protest founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison’s decision to hold a fundraiser for President Donald Trump the previous evening, Bloomberg reports. It was a rare sign of dissent for a company known for its stodgy corporate culture. But the circumstances of the small-scale protest also suggest that Ellison has less reason to worry about future employee revolts than some of his fellow tech moguls.
“The protest, called No Ethics/No Work, involved about 300 employees walking out of their offices or stopping work at remote locations at noon local time and devoting the rest of the day to volunteering or civic engagement,” Bloomberg reports. Bloomberg’s source asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
Oracle has more than 130,000 employees, so a walkout by 300 workers is hardly a serious threat to the company. Some employees, worried about retaliation from management, chose to give to charities opposing Trump’s agenda rather than participate in the walkout. Others took vacation time for their afternoon off. In short, Oracle employees took a less confrontational approach than employees at other tech giants, including Google and Amazon.
According to Bloomberg, the website organizing the protests was flagged by Oracle’s network. Oracle employees visiting the site from their work computers would see a message that said “Access to this site may not be permitted by the Oracle Acceptable Use Policy. However, if user is authorized and has legitimate business reason to access the requested site, then click below to access. Your access will be logged.”
Oracle now says this was an accident. According to a spokesperson, the site was temporarily flagged by anti-virus software but was whitelisted once the issue was noticed.
Oracle could benefit richly from a close relationship with Trump. On Wednesday, the Trump administration’s lawyers sided with Oracle in its high-stakes legal battle with Google over API copyrights, which is headed to the Supreme Court next month. Oracle’s campaign to extend copyright protection to software interfaces has few supporters in the software industry. Microsoft, IBM, and a number of tech industry trade groups have urged the Supreme Court to side with Google. But the Trump administration endorsed Oracle’s position in a brief to the high court.
Oracle also competes with rivals for valuable government cloud-computing contracts. Earlier this month, a federal court granted Amazon’s request to stop the Trump administration from moving forward with a massive $10 billion defense cloud-computing contract. Microsoft won the contract, but Amazon alleges that Trump personally and improperly lobbied for runner-up Amazon not to get it. Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have a testy relationship in part because Bezos owns The Washington Post, which frequently criticizes the president and breaks unflattering stories about him.
Oracle had been in the running earlier in the process but was not one of the final two contenders. But it’s not hard to imagine why Ellison would want to ingratiate himself with Trump.