Hundreds Protest Tax Breaks for Twitter, Tech Companies

Hundreds of protesters picketed Twitter’s offices because of an exceptionally generous tax break it receives from San Francisco. Meanwhile, municipal workers are being pressured to make concessions about their health care contributions because the city is running at a deficit.

In the San Francisco Bay Area in the past year there’s been a dramatic rise in anger directed at the tech industry, and activists have jumped on that discontent, organizing a new wave of anti-gentrification protests. In December and January, for instance, headlines were made as Google buses were blocked over tech’s significant contribution to displacement and the rising cost of living. Last Saturday housing organizers in San Francisco held a Citywide Tenants Convention to kick off an ambitious new agenda of legislative reform, aimed at curbing skyrocketing rents and ending a fast-growing number of evictions.

Wednesday was labor’s turn. SEIU Local 1021, which represents 13,000 city and county of San Francisco workers, brought out hundreds of its members to march on the headquarters of Twitter. The company was targeted because of an exceptionally generous tax break it receives from the city for locating its offices in the Mid-Market area. These tax breaks added up to $55 million in 2013 alone, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and are expected to be even greater this year. Meanwhile, Local 1021 says its members – city employees – are being pressured to make concessions at the bargaining table, most notably in the amount they have to contribute toward health care costs for them and their families, because the city is running at a deficit.

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

Twitter is by no means the only large company, tech or otherwise, receiving tax breaks in San Francisco. Zynga, the maker of Facebook games such as FarmVille, received $6 million of tax breaks in 2011, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Several other companies such as Microsoft and Spotify are applying for their own exemptions. Twitter isn’t the only one, but it definitely has made itself a target.