Corporate Welfare.8: Twitter Takes



There’s a new story out today from Julia Wong of In These Times about how Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco “have become a symbol of gentrification and displacement for housing activists and community organizations in the city. ” I asked a friend of mine who had moved from the Bay Area to New York fairly recently to compare the two places.  She said that she hated SF because it had become a playground for white wealthy tech boomers who were displacing working class people, esp. of the non-white variety, but that she thought Oakland was better.  At any rate, apparently the social media giant took a page from the professional sports franchise Field of Schemes playbook back in 2011.  They threatened to leave the city of San Francisco for the suburbs if they did not receive an exemption from the city’s payroll tax.  Not only did the “liberal” (read: neoliberal) city capitulate to this demand, they did so by establishing a six year “payroll tax exclusion area” around Twitter’s corporate headquarters, a move that drew other tech employers to relocate to the area to take advantage of the tax shelter.  In These Times takes stock of the consequences three years into the deal:

“In the three years since, the so-called “Twitter tax break” has drawn numerous tech companies to the area, though Twitter is by far the largest beneficiary. According to an analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco will lose $56 million on Twitter alone over the six-year life of the tax break—far above the city’s original estimate of $22 million.”

“That’s a figure that doesn’t sit well with city workers, who have accepted concessions in their past two contracts due to the recession. This fiscal year, the city is facing a $69 million projected budget deficit, a shortfall that SEIU claims would disappear if the city would stop making what the union calls “sweetheart deals” with tech companies. According to union officials, the tax breaks for the Central Market tech companies could total tens of millions of dollars this year. Add to that the $6 million tax break the nearby Zynga received in 2011 and the $500 million in fines San Francisco chose not to levy against Silicon Valley companies whose private shuttles illegally use public bus stops, and the frustration felt by workers like Larry Bradshaw, a paramedic and vice president of Local 1021, begins to become more clear.”

““If we made the tech corporations that are not paying their taxes pay their taxes, we would have more money in the city budget and we could rebuild the social safety net that we’ve seen being eroded for the last four or five years,”” Bradshaw said in an interview with Truthout Wednesday. “Twitter is emblematic of the whole problem with giving tax breaks to these large corporations. The other corporations are on our target list as well, but we’re starting with Twitter today.””

Sound familiar? Yes, but maybe bourgeoise bohemian tech companies like Twitter can pull this trick off even better than the old school big boys like Exxon and the National Football League.  With that hipster dress code and ethos, it must be easier for them to make their house look like a rummage sale when the tax man comes to the door:

One response to “Corporate Welfare.8: Twitter Takes”

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