San Francisco Union Workers Protest City's Tax Exemptions for Tech Companies

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Hundreds of San Francisco union workers took to the streets on tax day to protest the city’s three-year old payroll tax exemptions that have lured more than a dozen tech companies, including Twitter, to the once-desolate strip of mid-Market Street. Joe Rosato Jr. reports. (Published Tuesday, Apr 15, 2014)

    Hundreds of San Francisco union workers took to the streets on tax day to protest the city’s three-year old payroll tax exemptions that have lured more than a dozen tech companies, including Twitter, to the once-desolate strip of mid-Market Street.

    Workers, many who are currently negotiating contracts with the city, donned fake mustaches ala Mayor Ed Lee, and characterized the incentives as a giveaway to corporate tech giants, at the expense of working families who can no longer afford to live in San Francisco.

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    “They have money,” said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who works for Local 1021. “We’re saying why don’t we take that money and spend it on working people.”

    The value of the tax breaks varies widely depending on who’s crunching the numbers.

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    San Francisco leaders said the incentives deprived the city of just under $2 million in taxes, while generating $8 million in new revenue.

    Union leaders, on the other hand, said lost taxes total somewhere close to $56 million.

    “The economy is working for a section of the city,” Bradshaw said. “But for a large number of people, they’re being left behind in San Francisco.”

    San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development said the payroll tax breaks offered to Twitter, lured 17 other tech companies to mid-market. They also brought 17 small businesses, 13,000 jobs and more than 5,000 units of new housing under construction in the area.

    “The 13,000 jobs support so many other jobs and economic activity in the city,” said Todd Rufo, the mayor’s director of economic and workforce development. “That supports construction jobs, it supports our local small businesses."

    Rufo said the new economic activity in mid-Market is attracting new restaurants to the area, while generating new business for long-time area stalwarts.

    “Now there’s an influence of the younger crowd,” said Jeannie Kim, who has owned Sam’s Diner on Market Street for more than a decade. “People who are more in business suits are coming in.”

    Kim has expanded the footprint of her diner, while adding staff and new hip dishes to accommodate the new customers. But she said despite the influx of new business, the area still suffers an abundance of crime and homeless issues.

    “You’re not going to make everybody happy, and there are still things that need to change,” Kim said. “It’s going to take some time.”