By Tim Redmond
JUNE 25, 2014 – Another day, another anti-Google demo, this one in front of an app developers’ conference at Moscone Center, and the mainstream media bit on the Star Wars characters, which is why you do street theater.
But there was a lot more to this story.
The activists weren’t just complaining about evictions and tech workers. They were joined by leaders of the local labor movement, including Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council – and the message of a combined struggle for the rights of lower-paid workers in the tech world (security guards, for example) and the needs of San Franciscans getting displaced was clear and powerful.
It reinforces a critical trend in some parts of the labor movement in the Bay Area, where economic justice issues are on the agenda, along with traditional workplace rights. And with the anti-eviction folks supporting the rights of underpaid workers in the tech world, we saw the makings of a powerful coalition.
In this case, labor leaders were on hand to point out that Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley companies have outsourced their security jobs to a nonunion company.
“Google is doing well,” Paulson told the crowd. “Their security guards deserve a living wage.”
And in a nod to some of the other speakers, who are fighting evictions (in one case involving a senior Google employee), he noted: “We are here for the 99 percent.”
I listened to Paulson, and a security guard named Charles who protects a tech campus who said that all he and his coworkers are asking for is $20 an hour – a tiny fraction of what many Google workers make. “It’s not that hard,” he said. “We want what they take for granted – a living wage, health care, retirement.”
And at the same time, two tenants who are facing an eviction by Google lawyer Jack Halprin told the crowd that the company shouldn’t be doing evil. And Erin McElvoy, of the Anti-Eviciton Mapping Project, noted that more than 70 percent of the people facing Ellis Act evictions in the city today are either more than 60 years old or disabled.
“The solution,” she said, “is not going to be an app.”
The California Labor Federation is going to pour a lot of resources into the effort to demand that big tech companies use unionized contractors and to organize security guards at those office complexes. Representatives of the state federation and labor unions from San Francisco and Alameda County were at the demonstration today.
And if the labor folks and the anti-eviction folks continue to make common cause, and make the links between tech profits, evictions, and the struggle for workers’ rights, we’re looking at a serious political coalition here.
I wonder if the Google execs inside the (tightly guarded) conference center were listening.