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SEIU Protest for Healthcare at Twitter's Headquarters
On Wednesday, February 12, SEIU 1021 sponsored a noon time rally for improved public employees' healthcare. The theme was “End Twitter Tax Breaks; Improve Healthcare, Housing, Transportation and Education”. The rally started at the corner of Van Ness and Market, and then proceeded down Market Street to continue in front of Twitter headquarters. Supervisors Campos and Avalos were main speakers along with several union workers and reps. (20 minutes)
San Francisco City workers have been in the crossfire of escalated corporate-friendly policies at City Hall. Rather than bringing about a vibrant economy through more jobs, as Mayor Lee and others continue to claim, low income and working class San Franciscans are increasingly marginalized and pushed out of their home city through lower wages and layoffs, higher costs, forced evictions and other gentrification off shoots. SEIU represents the majority of city workers, who have continued to get flat wages and cuts forced on them over the past decade or more.
The link between Twitter and worker healthcare is that the tax breaks given to twitter several years ago as inducement to locate in the city - estimated at a $600 million dollar loss over several years, 55 million along over last year alone after Twitter became a publicly traded company – correspond to additional shares of healthcare expenses passed on to workers. So if Twitter had paid fair taxes, the cuts could have been avoided.
Workers have been looking to organize multiple organizations to work cooperatively with City Hall and the major health care insurers to force lower cost, more efficient and effective healthcare contracts that can help both the workers and the government economy. SEIU workers describe a process in which these insurers get “sweetheart deals”. Workers are forced to pay more and more for whatever inefficient, ineffective health care plans the insurers present, with the City insisting on passing down the additional costs.
Tenant activists have recently uncovered a dizzying array of moves made by Twitter and other companies such as Google and Air BnB in which they are acquiring or utilizing public assets without paying the corresponding taxes. These include the private shuttles clogging up streets and public MUNI stops to cart workers to jobs down the Peninsula and into Silicon Valley - taking active roles in the mass evictions residents are no fighting - without even paying fair transit-oriented fees; some type of ship on the Bay untaxed; Air BnB and other companies buying up tens of thousands of rent controlled apartments for conversion to hotel-type rentals, draining rent controlled housing while not even paying the substantial City hotel tax; and probably numerous other schemes. SEIU workers describe these companies as wielding big money influence at City Hall, with local politicians “looking the other way” afraid to confront such economic and political muscle.