Tuesday, December 24, 2013

California Tech Workers 'Profiting Off The Backs Of San Francisco's Working Class'

On December 20, emboldened by the success of anti-eviction protests against a "Google bus" in San Francisco's Mission District the week prior, residents and activists in the Bay Area organized simultaneous blockades of "tech buses" in the Mission and Oakland. In Oakland, Google buses were targeted, while residents of San Francisco prevented a bus bound for Apple's main campus from moving for over a half hour. Residents in the Bay Area continue to struggle against crippling evictions and displacement brought on, in large part, by the influx of well-to-do tech industry workers.

Residents are increasingly starting to view the tech buses as symbols of gentrification and of their own seemingly inevitable displacement from their homes. These buses, luxury double-deckers provided for free to employees of companies like Google, Apple and Facebook, among others, shuttle workers to places like Palo Alto and Cupertino. Police turn a blind eye while tech buses pick up and drop off residents in San Francisco and Oakland, illegally using public MUNI bus stops. If a resident of the area were to even idle in one of these areas for a moment, they could be fined $271, as many have been. Organizers of the campaign insist that at this point, tech companies owe the city of San Francisco over $1 billion in fines for this behavior.

 But beyond the fines, or the blatant disregard for the law, the real issues lie much deeper. In the eyes of longtime residents of classically working-class neighborhoods like the Mission and West Oakland, these buses reflect the class struggle going on in the Bay Area. Tech workers are shuttled to their jobs in  suburbs 40 miles away on special, luxury buses. They often eat for free in gourmet cafeterias on the campuses of their employers. Residents feel like the tech workers are moving into their neighborhoods, not engaging with their culture or history or even supporting local businesses and are rapidly pricing them out of their homes.

 Perhaps the most informative and startling symbolism invoked by the group was an 8-foot-tall map, detailing evictions in San Francisco from 1997-2013 under the city's "Ellis Act." This act states that landlords have the unconditional right to evict tenants, as long as the entire building is evicted and the units not re-rented for 5 years. But if the building is re-purposed, say to turn an apartment building into a condo complex, a single family home, or even office space for the tech industry, the landlords can raise the rent to whatever they choose. Residents say the Ellis Act is in large part responsible for the affordable housing and eviction crisis in the city. The act has been on the books since 1985 and has, to date, withstood numerous legal and legislative challenges.

When asked why the bus blockades are so important to the future of the Bay Area, Elisa Gill from the East Bay Solidarity Network offered the following insights: "Tech is the new ruling class in San Francisco. They see themselves as progressive culture-makers, but they're the same as the bankers and oil barons of days past - they profit off the backs of the working class of San Francisco. We're blocking this bus because we're not going to allow them to take over our city."

Taken from here 

There are only two classes of individual: the vast majority who must work in order to live and the tiny minority who live off the the profits created by the rest of us. Pitting one section of workers against another, whatever the difference in their pay scale, is a win-win situation for the capitalist system. Socialism promotes workers consciously pulling together to defeat this system which keeps so many of us in chains.

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