Trump executive order prevents racial bias training at Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems

Trump executive order prevents racial bias training at Collins Aerospace, BAE Systems

Under an executive order signed this week by President Donald Trump, defense contractors including Collins Aerospace and BAE Systems, both in Cedar Rapids, cannot provide diversity training based on conscious or unconscious bias, white privilege and other topics commonly taught in such programs.

The president’s order prohibits the federal government and its contractors from promoting “race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating” or teaching any “divisive concepts.”

That includes training that suggests a race or gender may have any privilege, status, moral or ethical values or character traits.

White privilege is the “set of social and economic advantages that white people have by virtue of their race in a culture characterized by racial inequality,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Collins Aerospace asked employees to “ensure any planned trainings in these areas are postponed until further notice,” according to an email obtained by The Gazette. The email indicates plans for a “further legal assessment of the impact to our content.”

This type of diversity training has been commonplace at many corporations. In 2018, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 stores across the country for a day to conduct racial bias training for its employees.

A report from the Society of Human Resource Managers in August said implementing racial diversity training in workplaces can result in “monumental change in their organizations.”

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Collins Aerospace, which has about 10,000 employees in Iowa, is Cedar Rapids’ largest employer. BAE Systems has about 700 employees in Cedar Rapids and Coralville after acquiring Collins Aerospace’s military GPS business, with plans to build a $139 million facility in Cedar Rapids.

BAE Systems is determining “how it could impact the training we provide to our employees moving forward,” spokesman Mark Daly said Friday.

“BAE Systems is deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and that won’t change,” Daly said in an email.

A Collins Aerospace spokeswoman was not available to comment on the company’s past diversity training efforts. But the company has a history of earning recognition for its diversity efforts.

DiversityInc, which ranks the top 50 U.S. businesses for their diversity efforts based on data from each company, included Rockwell Collins — the company’s predecessor — in its top 50 rankings five times in the past 10 years.

The Trump administration already banned training on white privilege and critical race theory in federal agencies earlier this month.

Spokeswomen from Collins Aerospace and its parent company, Boston-based Raytheon Technologies, were not available for comment.

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