Hundreds of city workers gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall for a noontime protest decrying tax breaks for high-tech companies and other deals that benefit the wealthy.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents more than 13,000 public service workers in the city and county of San Francisco, chanted and held up signs in front of City Hall before the city’s Board of Supervisors’ budget and finance committee meeting.
The city workers were calling attention to tax breaks, the use of public transit stops for private shuttles and other benefits the city is affording companies such as Twitter, Microsoft and Google.
A payroll tax exemption was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2011 as a way to entice companies like Twitter and Zendesk to stay in San Francisco instead of moving headquarters to other parts of the Bay Area. Protesters said the tax break for Twitter cost the city about $56 million last year.
City Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos, who had voted against the payroll tax break in 2011, attended today’s rally.
Avalos addressed the loud crowd that was cheering and chanting phrases such as “Twitter you’re no good, pay your taxes like you should.”
He spoke about reforming the city’s budget process and noted he has seen “huge tax breaks go to the private sector.”
He said he understood that the city is becoming unaffordable for workers such as clerks, janitors, transit staff, security officers and health care workers.
“Everyone needs to have a shot of staying here,” he said.
Campos, who is part of the budget committee, said that economic inequality is growing in San Francisco and “leaving behind the working people.”
The supervisor, who is running for a seat on the state Assembly, called for a living wage that is raised to $15 an hour and affordable health care.
A Municipal Transportation Agency worker said the city appreciates tech companies’ contributions but that “it’s time these companies pay their fair share.”
Protesters also called for reforming the state’s Ellis Act to protect tenants from speculators who are evicting longtime residents from apartments under the guise of getting out the rental business.
Organizers said there is a housing crisis in San Francisco that the tech industry has spurred, pushing out working-class residents and increasing the cost of housing.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News