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San Francisco | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Labor & Workers
Rise Up, Shut It Down, San Francisco Is a Union Town!
On Tax Day, April 15, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) , Local 1021, rallied at City Hall and marched to Twitter in San Francisco. Protesters demanded the end of huge Big Tech tax giveaways, and the full funding of public services in the city.
San Francisco April 15-Today, Tax Day, the 99% forked over many billions to mostly undeserving governments.
And in San Francisco, the SEIU Local 1021 union, which represents 13,000 city workers in SF and 56,000 throughout northern California, organized today’s action, the third such it has in as many months.
The union’s press release yesterday stated, “The marchers will protest the loss of over $100 million in City Hall giveaways to some of the biggest corporations in the world. That loss of significant City resources has led to a weakening of social services provided to the public.”
The press release also noted that in 2012-3 evictions across the city were up 38%, and rent increases were up sharply as well.
Joining the union today were various community organizations, who serve city populations that are suffering loss of income, housing and health care in the wake of Big Tech’s takeover of low income neighborhoods and the displacement of working class and cultural institutions.
As the 4 o’clock hour approached this afternoon, hundreds gathered in Civic Center Plaza across Polk Street from City Hall in the bright sun and strong wind.
Banners and signs proclaimed, End Tax Breaks To Wealthy CEOs, Fight Income Inequality; Restore San Francisco Public Services; Protect Tenants and End Forced Evictions; Fund Public Health, Affordable Health Care For All; Liveable Wage Or Sweetheart Tax Deals?; and Safe Staffing Means Patient Safety.
Many people were wearing purple and yellow SEIU tee shirts and more than a few were sporting faux Ed Lee mustaches for the occasion.
SEIU MC Karen Joubert kicked off the rally by saying, “You paid your taxes. We’re going to make sure Twitter did too.” In the back of the truck where she spoke was a large cutout of Lee. He had no comment.
Joubert continued, “The people of San Francisco are here today to make sure the mayor knows that in this Tale of Two Cities some of us can’t afford to stay in SF. They’re cutting services and don’t care about working families. Their buses pay a dollar for each stop. Can we ride the bus for a dollar?”
The first speaker was Nomi from the Filipino Community Center. He gave us a lively hip hop rendition with this chorus,
We are the people, united in struggle,
To fight for our jobs, the brothers and sisters.
Following were the United Players, with Rudy fronting. “We’re fighting for our lives,” he told us. “This ain’t no game.” He referenced Bob Marley, who graced his tee shirt. “He fought for his people, hr fought for justice. It takes a hood , cause we from the hood, to fight for justice and liberation.”
Next it was back to MC Joubert, who led the crowd of 300+ in the following chant:
Tax evaders, worker haters, If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace.
Twitter tax breaks got to go.
Mayor Lee, you don’t care, Make Twitter pay its fair share.
Tenants and workers side by side, Mayor Lee got nowhere to hide.
Frankie, member of the American Indian Movement and Idle No More, appeared next. Before sharing a prayer song with us, he spoke of the effects of tech related gentrification on the city. “A lot of people are getting evicted. Teachers can’t afford to live here.
He also linked the recent police murder of Alex Nieto to this phenomena. “He was eating a burrito on Bernal Hill. People complained. This wouldn’t have happened before. The police came and killed him.
Frankie added, “Us natives know what it is to be placed in a different land because they want the land and resources.”
Emily from the Chinese Progressive Association told of “working with low wage workers in the Chinese community and sang out, “When immigrant workers are under attack, what do they do?” To which the assembled replied, “Stand up, fight back.” “We’ll be fighting with you,” she called back.
Union VP Larry Bradshaw next commented, “The mayor won’t see us, so we came to his door. Workers are being forced out. Mayor Lee is not doing a lot for us. Meanwhile Twitter is worth $36 billion and they’re not paying taxes, and they want us to take pay cuts. There are 150 vacancies at SF General Hospital, 90 of them nurses. Twitter got $56 million in tax breaks over the past year. This is all a result of Lee’s failed policies.
Ms. Burke from the SF Living Wage Coalition related that 23% of San Franciscans live in poverty, ‘mostly African Americans and Latinos.” She called for an end to “dead end job training programs. You go through the program and it doesn’t lead to a job. The program runs out, and you’re forced to leave the city. There should be one city for all of us.”
Trevor Anderson of the SF MTA reported, “We run the city. We move the city. We ask the city to take care of us. It is not bargaining in good faith. I was born and raised here , and I’m a long time public worker. Every year our pay gets lower and lower. We can’t afford to live here. I’m a delegate for contract bargaining. We make the city look good. We need to show we have world class workers and be paid accordingly. Twitter and Google workers are moving in, and the companies are not paying their fair share.
Ron Davis is a 911 dispatch worker. He said his department is chronically understaffed. “When that happens our response time is 2 to 3 minutes more. That 2 to 3 minutes could be your life, or one of your loved ones. It bothers me when one company gets a tax break bigger than our annual budget.”
Harry, a teacher at City College, said SF is a city where “progressive people are under attack. They’re stripping the 99% of what they need to live here. They don’t consider that people need a livable wage to live here.” He told of being laid off and then rehired two years later. But he began doing the same work of people getting paid more, but at his old pay rate. “We need to continue the fight of city workers,” he asserted.
Jamilah Din has worked at Laguna Honda Hospital for 20 years. “A top city needs top services,” she said. “San Francisco is also tops in inequality. The cost of living is sky high. It’s outrageous that there are 30,000 ‘disposable’ workers with no benefits. Many city workers are ‘deskilling’, working for low wages. This amounts to wage theft. This city is a playground for the rich. Others are working 2 or 3 jobs just survive. The city needs to stop exploiting workers and start paying a livable wage.”
SF Supervisor John Avalos was next to the mike. “I’m ready to fight for a fair economy,” he said. “It’s only fair to pay our taxes. Corporations need to too. What good is it to win the economy and lose our city? We have the opportunity now to join other cities to raise the living wage to $15 an hour. We can do it here if the people of the city take to the streets.”
To Twitter and Back
Then the throng did just that, taking an abrupt mass about face and heading east, across Civic Center Plaza. Energized by the poignant testimony of the rally speakers, the throng quickly spread over the plaza, thundering “We are the union, mighty mighty union!”
When the march reached the far end of the plaza, police attempted to route it onto the intersecting Hyde Street. However, a union official intervened, and instead the procession crossed over into UN Plaza, which soon became filled with passionate people shouting, “Gonna rise up, shut it down, San Francisco is a union town!.” Police on foot tried to keep up with it all.
The march reached Market in no time, where the protestors took the street, and the cry went up, “Twitter, twitter, you’re no good, pay your taxes like you should!”
We soon passed luxury housing under construction at 9th, where in the late 1970s Trinity Plaza landlord Angelo Sangicamo sparked the city’s first rent control law after giving his middle class tenants outrageous rent hikes.
Up ahead vehicular traffic on Market had come to a halt. At the head of the line was a #6 Muni bus, with that line slated for elimination by the city. Behind it was the ever populous but never popular Not in Service model. Together they seemed to symbolize the cuts in public services today’s actions were protesting. The signs are everywhere.
Aloft in the distance three presumably news outlet helicopters looked down on us, awaiting our arrival at Twitter just ahead. In the SEIU truck accompanying the march, the cutout of the mayor still stood mute, his mustache immaculate thanks to his Big Tech buddies.
Which the marchers were anything but. When we reached Twitter headquarters at 8th the throng’s noise became truly enlightening, as the people faced Twitter full force and let fly, “Pay your taxes, pay your taxes!”
The SEIU truck was at the curb in front of Twitter. Supervisor David Chiu appeared in it. “We are here to say that there is a crisis in equality,” he proclaimed. “That corporations must pay their fair share. San Francisco must no longer leave behind its working class. Si se puede. Si se puede!”
A worker from the Westside Community Clinic followed up next, greeting Twitter with, “We told you we’d be back!” She called for a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour and said, “Tell Ed Lee $10 is not enough!” The current SF minimum wage is below $11 an hour.
Other SEIU members pointed out that, besides Twitter’s $56 tax givebacks, other Big Tech corporations in the city have sweetheart deals totaling $46 million. This makes over $100 million in lost revenue to the city; money, the union asserts, that could be used to adequately staff hospitals and 911 dispatchers, pay other city workers a fair wage, and provide affordable housing to the city’s working class.
A worker asked the cutout mayor about all this. As usual, he had nothing new to say. “He doesn’t have a plan,” the worker pointed out. “We’re going to have to go back to City Hall.”
And so we did, where the protesters occupied Polk Street in front of City Hall as well as City Hall steps, chanting and making a lot more noise all the way.
But that wasn’t quite good enough for some. I looked inside the main entrance to see the city’s seat of government, and spotted some activists sitting on that seat—actually thee floor—while deputies brandished plastic handcuffs. A union official told me there had been 24 arrests for committing civil disobedience.
Contract negotiations between SEIU 1021 and the city are ongoing.
Actually the SF Supervisor who spoke at Twitter was David Campos, not David Chiu. My apologies. Michael