Saturday, February 08, 2014

Protests appear at Silicon Valley company buses for well-paid employees living in San Francisco

Activists are protesting. Sometimes trying to block privately chartered busses that take employees of Silicon Valley companies to work from city locations in San Francisco and Oakland.  Many of the major employers, including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple provide commuter bus service (rather like a highway train) from the cities.  And many tech employees like living in the city.
  
Since many of the employees have 100000+ salaries and stock options, they can often afford the 3000+ rents in San Francisco.  Some advocates for low income people say that the trend is driving poor people out.  But it’s remarkable that the activism would lead to attempts to block buses.
    
The San Francisco Bay Guardian has a story here
  
Rents would be less in Oakland than San Francisco itself.  When I am in the area, I usually stay East of the Bay, but near BART, because hotel rates are usually less than half of what they are “in the City”.
Frankly, gentrification, undermining subsidized rent, is happening in most cities.  In Washington DC, the U Street corridor has become a recent location for ritzy condos and apartments, like Shaw, resulting in tensions.  (The heart of the 1968 riots had occurred nearby.) The H-Street corridor, with the streetcar line, will gradually displace blight in the NE part of the city with new development, supporting jobs closer to Union Station.  Around Nationals Park and the proposed soccer stadium, slums were razed and condos were built.  Some bars and clubs closed, and some relocated to U Street, but now there is new interest in NE.  Low income people are displace to Prince Georges County, but the resulting tension contribute to brazen crime in many areas.
  
Minneapolis has always been well-developed with people living near their jobs downtown, with people living urban-style because of the climate, and so has Chicago.  But in other cities, like Cleveland and Indianapolis, I see similar trends. 
  
Yet, it’s interesting and disturbing to see activists protesting actual “middle class” workers who just happen to make more than average because of their skills and education. But I ran into the same attitude in the early 1970’s, in the days that I spied on activism, like the People’s Party of New Jersey.  Middle class professionals were seen as the enemy.  The LGBT community was always straddling the issue, siding with the Left on discrimination issues but with the libertarian right on most freedoms for progressive companies and the building of new condos and housing. 
   
Silicon Valley salaries and perks might sound generous.  But in 2001, my last year at ING, I made $72000 in Minneapolis.  In the DC area, salaries in the low 100’s are common for more highly skilled tech workers.  It is the failure of companies in countries like Russia and China to pay techies properly that has contributed to hacking as a way to make a living (or get rich) overseas.     

Wikipedia attribution link for area south of Market St, link



Update: Feb. 9

AOL has backed down on the policy of withholding the 401(k) match because of public criticism; Leslie Armstrong reports on the actions of CEO Tim Armstrong here

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