A wave of anti-tech-industry protests have escalated this year in San-Francisco against Silicon Valley companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook. The tensions grow over the increasing income divide: an inflow of highly paid IT workers is driving up rents in the city forcing longtime residents out. According to Reuters, a new suit has been brought by activists against the city and county of San-Francisco over a pilot program, giving the WiFi-equipped buses of Google and other IT giants, access to municipal bus stops. Protesters claim the program favors higher-paid technology workers over low-income city dwellers.
Private WiFi-equipped comfortable buses, which have become a symbol of income inequality, are transporting highly paid employees to their jobs at Silicon Valley companies under the 18-month pilot program.
“The private shuttle buses are a visible symbol of economic inequality, so they are a convenient place for people to vent their frustration. But they are not the problem,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director at Bay Area urban policy organization SPUR, quoted by the CNN. “The problem is that our public transit system isn’t good enough and that, for historical reasons, many of the tech companies are located in suburban campuses that don’t have transit.”
However, a coalition of transport and housing activists and a labor union urge the county to revise the program, stressing that the buses will not only displace low-income workers, but also increase pollution, interfere with public transport and pose a significant risk to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“It’s a good thing to transport employees to work on buses, but there is an impact,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Richard Drury, cited by Reuters. “We want the city to analyze what that is and mitigate the harm as much as possible.”
The activists claim that the money the companies are spending on their private lines could be used on improving the public transportation system of San Francisco.
Transportation problem is just one of a number of issues that recently have provoked tensions between the residents and the tech industries. The influx of highly paid IT professionals has already caused a tremendous rise of housing prices. That makes the residents worry that San Francisco will be soon overtaken by wealthy newcomers, forcing out middle and working class city dwellers.
It should be noted that a month ago a rally against Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose took place in San Francisco. Protesters were waving banners outside his home, demanding that Google had to fund “anti-capitalist” communities in the Bay Area. Calling Rose a “parasite” they blamed him “for helping fuel the tech startup bubble that is destroying San Francisco,” according to the CNN.
A local group, calling themselves “Counterforce,” posted a statement in their blog urging Google to donate $3 billion to an anarchist organization that would “create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California.”