Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins tells US employees need new gun laws

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has just stepped into one of the most controversial political debates in the country. In a duel with employees, Robbins called for new gun laws, including additional background checks, in response to the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Cisco, which sells networking equipment to companies and organizations worldwide, held an internal live stream on June 2. During the meeting, Robbins discussed the massacre at a primary school in Uvalde, resulting in 21 victims, 19 of which were third and fourth grade children.

Robbins offered condolences to the victims and called for action from political leaders to protect children and schools. An employee who watched the live stream recalled Robbins saying he expected Congress to act with the same outrage as when Russia invaded Ukraine.

House on Wednesday through the a gun bill that would raise the minimum age to buy assault rifles in the US from 18 to 21. The law, however, has little chance in the Senate, which is divided equally among parties. Republicans, who remain united in their staunch opposition to gun reform, could block a bill with fewer than 60 votes.

While tech executives have spoken out in recent years on issues like immigration and racial justice, they have been reluctant to engage on the most contentious issues, largely to avoid doing so. Disturbing employees and customers. Robbins’ commentary is notable because Cisco has employees and customers all over the map – geographically and politically – and a culture that is often viewed as more conservative than many of its younger colleagues. in Silicon Valley. The company has 79,500 full-time employees by mid-2021.

Robbins’ statement led to a heated debate on an internal chat board as employees began to debate their views on the matter. Ultimately, an executive in the human resources department stepped in to try to keep the discussion apolitical, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some employees are angry with Robbins, accusing him and the company of trying to take away their Second Amendment rights, the people who requested anonymity said because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. this. Another group of employees stepped in to defend Robbins, saying his claims had been misinterpreted.

Robbins confirmed elements of the discussion to CNBC on Wednesday, after appearing on “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer. He said that although the skirmish occurred between a small contingent of staff, the “politicization” of gun laws made him “frustrated”.

Robbins knows that bringing up the subject of guns is “risky,” but he told CNBC he feels the need to say something because “children in schools are being slaughtered.” He said he had a grandchild who was about to enter grade 1, so there was a problem near his house.

This is not the first time Robbins has expressed his opinion after the Uvalde massacre. Immediately after the shootings at the end of May, Francine Katsoudas, director of human resources at Cisco, tweeted: “We must call on leaders in Congress to pass sound gun control legislation, starting with control. Background checks to ensure a safer future for children and communities in America.”

Robbins shared the tweet, adding, “We need Congress to act. It’s clear that our current plan is NOT working.”

The issue is being driven in the private sector. About 200 CEOs have signed the contract petition urge the Senate to act. They are using the moniker “CEO of Gun Safety”.

In a note to employees after the Uvalde shootings on May 25, Cisco said employees can take the next day off work if they want some personal time after the tragedy.

A Cisco spokesperson sent this statement in an email to CNBC:

“At Cisco, we’re passionate about helping our employees feel safe and supported at work and in their communities. And like so many others, we’re heartbroken and heartbroken by these issues. Tragedy has struck in the past few weeks.In signing up for our company, Cisco regularly provides an opportunity for employees to share their concerns, learn from outside experts, and access resources. If they want to join. Supporting an inclusive future for all begins with promoting healthy dialogue, and Cisco prides itself on its programs that give employees the opportunity to voice their views and support support on issues that are important to them.”

Robbins has not been shy about getting involved in hot button issues in recent years.

Immediately after the killing of George Floyd in 2020, Robbins and executives held 90 minutes “teaching at” instead of the usual hand-in-hand meeting to discuss structural racism, implicit bias, police brutality, and the “shared responsibility” of employees and the public. In 2018, Robbins sent many company-wide email about the importance of accessing mental health treatment and finding a support network after a string of high-profile suicides.

— CNBC technology reporter Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

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