Not everyone is irrationally exuberant in my beloved and crazy San Francisco, serial epicenter of magnificent tech and real estate bubbles and their subsequent busts. The trench between those who are benefiting from the bubble and those who’re run over by it as it pushes rents into the stratosphere and inflates other essential costs of living just got a lot deeper with the arrest of security contractors for Apple who were protesting at the Apple Store downtown.
Ironically, just a few days ago, San Francisco was declared to have the fastest growing compensation for tech workers among 34 markets across the country: In 2013, the value of their wages, stock compensation, meals, and other benefits jumped 18.9% from prior year to an average of $156,500. The highest average compensation levels were in Santa Clara County in Silicon Valley at $196,000 and in San Mateo County in the middle of the Peninsula, at $291,500.
San Mateo County’s figures include the compensation of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In addition to free lunches, a salary of $1, and some other benefits, he pocketed $3.3 billion via FB stock options, up from $2.3 billion the year before. Remove his stock option gains from the equation, and San Mateo County’s average tech compensation plummets to $210,000. If you then take the next 19 most remunerated individuals out, it’ll come down to a more realistic level.
But the manna for the lucky ones covers up the plight of others. A whole hullabaloo arose two weeks ago when the USA Today featured the hapless drivers of the gleaming, Wi-Fi equipped tech buses that crisscross San Francisco and head down the Peninsula every morning, and return in the evening, shuttling employees to the campuses of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and other companies. These buses have already become the target of irate locals who have to deal with banged-up city buses from a prior era.
But the drivers of these tech buses aren’t actually employees of Google, Facebook, or Yahoo. They’re employed by outside contractors to drive around tech workers. USA Today interviewed some of these drivers, and the picture that emerged wasn’t pretty.
They drive about nine hours a day in a split shift, with a long, unpaid, and mostly useless break in the middle. Some of them leave home before their kids wake up and get back by the time the kids go to bed. The drivers employed by the SFO Shuttle Bus Company to drive Facebook employees around earn $18 an hour. While that may be a decent wage in Oklahoma, it’s not in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, some of the most expensive areas in the country. By comparison, Facebook pays its high-school interns $6,213 per month and Palantir pays its interns $7,012 per month, which is nearly twice what the drivers get.
And on Thursday, in front of the cool-exuding Apple Store in downtown San Francisco, the two layers collided again.
A group of people, apparently security guards at the Apple Store, staged a sit-in, as freelance journalist Julia Carrie Wong live-tweeted from the event – to protest low wages. Holding up signs, they sat around in a circle inside the store, at the foot of the glassy stairs leading to the second floor. To the bafflement of customers and the consternation of employees, they sat there for over an hour. “Invisible No More,” a sign read. Or “Opportunity for All Our Communities.” They were contractors employed by outside companies to guard Apple’s cool.
But when the protesters moved to the sidewalk and blocked the entrance of the store from the outside, police officers, of whom there appeared to be more than protesters, decided to step in. San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of patience with this sort of thing in front of an Apple Store. Wong tweeted:
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) August 28, 2014
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) August 28, 2014
In all, 12 protesters were hauled off to the hoosegow, Wong reported.
So what the heck happened at the Apple Store? The tech bubble and the housing bubble, nurtured by the tsunami of hot money that years of QE and ZIRP from central banks around the world have unleashed and that has washed over San Francisco, collided with frustrated people who represent much of the American reality [How the Surge of Hot Money Pushes San Francisco to the Brink].
Denizens of this American reality are struggling to make ends meet. They have trouble paying soaring rents. Buying even an old starter-shack in San Francisco, where the median home price is now around $1 million, has moved out of reach. Even 2.1% inflation cuts too deeply into their budget. And to go to work, they face long expensive commutes. Whether they’re guarding Apple Stores, driving Google buses, or work in any of the millions of other non-tech occupations, such as teachers, the tsunami of hot money sloshing around the area has made life too expensive for them.
So how much does it cost to manipulate an entire market? Not much. And it’s getting cheaper! Read…. Pump and Dump: How to Rig the Entire IPO Market with just $20 Million
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