HR professionals last week took to social media to voice their opposition to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) perceived ties to the White House, with some of the professional organization’s members threatening to allow their memberships to lapse.
The outcry came in response to SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr.'s appearance with President Donald Trump last week at an event featuring several large employers and trade associations to unveil a new White House jobs initiative. SHRM signed on to the effort and highlighted its involvement, quoting Taylor as saying that "SHRM enthusiastically pledges its support for an investment in lifelong education and workforce training."
Good intentions; poor execution?
HR professionals — several of them SHRM conference speakers and SHRM bloggers — took to Twitter and other outlets in the hours that followed Taylor's appearance to call on SHRM to rethink its involvement with the administration.
"We have a legal and ethical responsibility to provide an appropriate workplace for everybody," Victorio Milian, an HR consultant who was among the most vocal critics, told HR Dive. "If the White House has indicated this is not their alignment, why should we involve ourselves directly with them?"
SHRM did not respond to a request for comment about the dissent.
Many voiced support for the underlying efforts, but asked SHRM and Taylor to explain why workforce development efforts require Trump's assistance. "Can't SHRM do this work without publicly aligning with a questionable president?" tweeted Mary Faulkner, director of HR for Denver Water and a SHRM conference speaker and SHRM blogger.
This wasn’t acknowledgement. This was a publicity event about vague future work, not past accomplishments. Can’t SHRM do this work without publicly aligning with a questionable president? SHRM usually works behinds the scenes - the focus on the WORK, not the person.— Mary Faulkner (@mfaulkner43) July 20, 2018
Milian echoed that sentiment. "My main issue is that SHRM as an organization is explicitly aligning themselves with this administration," said Milian, a former SHRM member, now a consultant for Humareso — although he notes that his views are his own. "This particular administration has consistently demonstrated that it is regressive — in everything from its misogyny and how Trump talks about women to the fact that they're actively trying to roll back LGBTQI protections." SHRM should absolutely be pursuing worthwhile endeavors like workforce preparedness, he said, "but not necessarily working so explicitly with the administration to advance those goals."
Others, however, voiced support for Taylor. Omari J. Faulkner, employer of choice ambassador for ManTech International, tweeted that Taylor's actions shouldn't be taken out of context, and that the CEO shouldn't be expected to explain anything.
Alice (Kilborn) Riethman, an employment law attorney and HR consultant also cautioned against reading too much into Taylor's attendance: "Can't #SHRM and @JohnnyCTaylorJr be acknowledged by the President for ongoing commitment to workforce readiness and jobs without implication that SHRM is funding, backing, or even supporting him personally?"
Several threatened to discontinue their SHRM membership, but others expressed a hope that Taylor would explain his position, and take members' concerns to heart. "He's representing the HR community, and we are paying him. I don't support that administration or anything it stands for. I think @JohnnyCTaylorJr does owe the HR community a [sic] explanation," April Dowling, payroll and benefits manager at RxBenefits, Inc., wrote.
Faulkner said she hopes watchers will understand the nuances of the outcry. HR professionals care about the organization, she wrote; "If we didn't care, no one would say anything."