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S.F. Tax-Break Protesters Target Twitter (Video)

Rally calls for end to city's tax incentives for tech companies.

Google-bus-blocking anarchists aren’t the only ones targeting the tech industry’s big names in San Francisco these days: The unions are taking their tech complaints to the streets, too.

On Tax Day Tuesday, hundreds of nurses, janitors, 911 dispatchers and others gathered at City Hall and marched the few blocks to Twitter’s midtown headquarters to protest the company’s payroll tax break.

Organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 — the city’s largest, representing 9,500 employees — protesters wore San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee-inspired mustaches and carried a symbolic $56 million tax bill.

The controversial mid-Market tax break allows companies that move to the once-vibrant, now-blighted commercial zone to grow without having to pay higher payroll taxes. So far, 18 tech companies — including Twitter and Zendesk — have taken advantage of the incentive, according to the mayor’s office. The traditionally low-income neighborhood with single-residence-occupancy apartments has been quickly gentrifying since the program started in 2011.

The protesting union members called for the tax-break program to end — and for the tech wealth to be spread more evenly into the city’s services (911 dispatchers said they were short-staffed, etc.). Marchers wore purple T-shirts that read: “Protect tenants and end forced evictions; defend public services; end tax breaks for the wealthy corporations; fund good full-time jobs.”

The march started at City Hall.

Twitter tax break protest

Some were very convincing in their Ed Lee mustaches.

Twitter tax break protest

Others, not so much.

Twitter tax break protest

Companies taking advantage of the tax break, the protesters argued, owed $56 million in lost revenue to the city.

Twitter tax break protest

And it’s not just Twitter. Another sign called out Microsoft, Zoosk, Spotify, Zendesk and Advisor.

Twitter tax break protest

Some protesters’ pickets called out Twitter investor Ron Conway.

Twitter tax break protest

The march gathered steam and headed out.

The crowd was a pretty impressive sight walking toward Market Street, a San Francisco thoroughfare that it shut down.

Twitter tax day protest

Karen Joubert, who works at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, led chants from a loudspeaker on a truck.

Twitter tax break protest

The chants grew louder as they closed in on Twitter.

The protesters stood outside for a few minutes around 6 pm. Many flipped off the building.

Twitter tax break protest

Twitter tax break protest

Protesters delivered the bills to Twitter.

Twitter did not receive them enthusiastically. No company representatives emerged, and the doors stayed shut.

Twitter tax break protest

Afterward, City Hall guards let a few dozen protesters sit in the lobby. After the protesters refused to disperse, guards put plastic bands around their hands and detained them.


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