“We want Twitter to pay its fair share” 24 Cops Police Protesters (Including Two Supes) Against Corporate Tax Breaks

San Francisco Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos joined San Francisco city workers today in a protest outside Twitter’s Market Street headquarters calling for an end to corporate tax breaks.

The raucous lunchtime protest, organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, featured a marching band and a flock of cupids offering valentines to “techies.”

Organizers called for an end to a payroll tax break approved in 2011 intended to encourage companies such as Twitter to keep their headquarters in San Francisco and help revitalize the mid-Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

SEIU officials said the tax break cost the city around $55 million last year for Twitter alone, and argued the lost tax revenues had a negative impact on the funds available for city employee healthcare benefits and essential city services.

“As the city claims a deficit, corporations continue to get a free pass while services are being affected and unjustified healthcare costs are passed on to public and family budgets,” said Larry Bradshaw, vice president for SEIU Local 1021.

Avalos and Campos were among those who voted against the payroll tax break in 2011.

Avalos today decried a city government that he said is “all too often is giving away the store to major corporations” while local service providers are forced to leave the area due to rising rents.

Campos led the crowd in a chant, asking “Whose city? Our city!”

“I’m not here to vilify Twitter,” Campos said, arguing that city policies should prioritize workers and the middle class. “We want Twitter to pay its fair share.”

Few Twitter employees were around during the protest but more than two-dozen police officers were on hand, reflecting the current high level of tension surrounding tech companies and issues of gentrification in San Francisco.

The protest ended peacefully, however, the crowd dissipating rapidly as the lunch hour ended.

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  • The Yaoi Review

    “I’m not here to vilify Twitter,” Campos said, arguing that city policies should prioritize workers and the middle class. “We want Twitter to pay its fair share.”

    Here’s the thing that irks me. Do they not realize other small companies benefit from this as well? If they’re only pointing out Twitter, then they ARE vilifying them. I work for one of those small companies and this benefits all of us middle class workers struggling to make ends meet in the Bay Area (and I use “middle class” very loosely). I saw their little protest today and it totally focused on Twitter and ignored all those who DON’T work there and who DON’T make “Twitter” money and who need those tax breaks in order to stay employed. So this city policy does, in fact, prioritize workers and the middle class, Mr. Campos. You just need to stop focusing your attention on Twitter.

  • Elias Levy

    Wait, two sups that voted for the tax break where in front of Twitter protesting said tax breaks.

    WTF?

    And what exactly is gained by protesting in front of Twitter. Wouldn’t said supervisors’ time be better used by introducing legislation to roll back those tax breaks and lobby their peers on the Board of Supervisors?

    Or are Avalos and Campos simply grandstanding?

    • Justizin

      Read the article again, this time before you start typing your comment. ;) Avalos and Compos voted against the tax breaks. They would need to convince several other supes and the mayor. Twitter, however, could reject the tax break which doesn’t make mathematical sense. Jane Kim, supervisor for District 6, which includes the “blighted” areas being “revitalized” by Twitter and Square and whoever, has been mostly silent on the issue.

      What would be *really* great is to understand the true issue, which is not that Twitter doesn’t want to pay 1.5% payroll tax on over 2000 employees – doing so barely affects their bottom line. It’s that they don’t want to store, in a savings account, the taxes they might pay on every stock option they have issued, most of which won’t be cashed in.

      SF should tax the stockholder on their income as capital gains, not the corporation issuing the stock as payroll. I think that has some state tax issues right now, but legislation could be introduced which frees that up.

      Continuing to rehash the same discussion from the past few years is certainly, at its’ best, cathartic, and is not accomplishing anything of substance. I once expected more from Avalos, but perhaps if this is his best game, he wasn’t qualified to be mayor.

      • Elias Levy

        Thanks. You are indeed correct. I need to slow down while reading.

        Still makes little sense to protest in front of Twitter rather than try to advance your goals through the legislative process.

        Your idea is an interesting one. I imagine there are issues regarding taxing the options as capital gains income, such that it could be avoided if someone moves out of the city before they exercise their options. But studying such options and their viability is a lot more useful to standing on the sidewalk. Thanks for sharing.

  • HappyHighwayman

    It’s awful how Twitter has selfishly transformed and revitalized a blighted area of Market street that clearly had thousands of businesses fighting to take over the area. Seeing hundreds of employed people not publicly defecating or urinating really took a toll on my sense of “What is San Francisco?”. I am angry, and I am not going to take it anymore. Clearly these civil servants, who are protected against termination and receive huge publicly funded pensions are in a better position to judge city tax policy than anyone else, and I applaud them for providing their financial expertise.

  • sw

    I rarely agree with Campos and Avalos, but they’re right on this one. Twitter got a sweetheart deal that isn’t available to other local businesses, who arguably need it much more. Ed Lee panicked when he thought a company might leave, and he convinced the Board to give away $30-50 million in tax revenue. You are kidding yourself if you believe that Twitter will change the neighborhood that it’s in. Until SF decides to stop concentrating social services in the Tenderloin, the areas near Civic Center (including that stretch of Market) will be a challenge.

    • Elias Levy

      The city doesn’t concentrate the city services in those areas for no reason. They do so because that is where the folks that need those services are concentrated. And the folks are concentrated there because that is where the SROs are located.

    • The Yaoi Review

      I don’t know all the breaks Twitter is getting, but I know the company I work for in that same area is getting tax breaks that Twitter gets. I’m not sure your statement about it not be available to other local businesses is 100% accurate. Unless you mean ALL other local businesses, then yes. The tax breaks are for businesses in that specified area, but still not just Twitter.

    • The Yaoi Review

      Sorry, want to add (and I’m not picking on your statement) that Twitter being there is already changing that area. They and their employees are being catered to. There is housing going in that only they can afford and businesses coming into the neighborhood that are specifically going after Twitter employees’ business (I work right there and see it happening). It won’t happen overnight, but I see it happening.

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