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Monday, February 22, 2016

Yelp Employee, Fired Over Housing Concerns, Worked For "Housing Activist" Tech CEO

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 10:44 AM

click to enlarge Jeremy Stoppelman, tech CEO, erstwhile employer of poor people. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia commons
  • Jeremy Stoppelman, tech CEO, erstwhile employer of poor people.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman was in the news all weekend, for all the wrong reasons.

His company and his erstwhile employee, Talia Jane — the 25-year-old "mysteriously" fired from her entry-level job at Yelp after noting in a Medium post that, in the Bay Area's absurd housing market, she skipped groceries and heat so she could pay her rent — are now talking points nationwide.

For liberals, Yelp is a poster child of the abuses of today's money-first, people-last America; for conservatives, Jane is the embodiment of the entitled millennial (how DARE our children ask for competitive wages!?). 

Lost in this is the direct nexus between Stoppelman's own politics and Jane's situation. Stoppelman, you see, is pro-development and a financial supporter of San Francisco's "housing activists." That might earn him a pass — but it doesn't.

click to enlarge Talia Jane, newly unemployed. - TALIAJANE.COM
  • Talia Jane, newly unemployed.
Jane's plight may sound familiar to you. She worked an entry-level gig at Yelp, which earned her $12.25 an hour, according to reports. That translated into a little over $8 an hour in take-home pay, and after landing an apartment for $1225 about 30 miles away from San Francisco — trading the luxury of living alone at a young age for another couple hundred dollars in BART fares added to her monthly cost of living — she existed on rice, tea, and oxygen. 

She was fired on Friday, a few hours after her post on Medium went viral. In his only public comments on the matter to date, Stoppelman insisted that her post had nothing to do with her sacking — but did not offer an alternate theory.

Among other things, Stoppelman is a financial supporter and a sometimes-contributor to the Google email group for the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, or SFBARF. SFBARF advocates for pro-growth policies and pro-growth politicians, which means, in the parlance of many of Jane's sympathizers, supporting "developer shills." 
Stoppelman is also active in politics. He's donated to the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Ed Lee, and Assemblyman David Chiu. He's also written checks for Supervisor Scott Wiener's reelection campaign, and contributed to one of the political action committees that supported Lee's bid for mayor.

And therein lies the irony (or the hypocrisy, if you're not feeling accommodating). One of Lee's pet measures over the year has been a mandated increase to the minimum wage — the same minimum wage that Stoppelman could raise any time at his company.

Instead of talking about how he's willing to shift his company's priorities towards his people, Stoppelman tweeted about how he wants to relocate his workers — to a place where both the minimum wage and the cost of housing are lower. Building more housing in the Bay Area might, at some time, bring down the cost of housing — though how many units that would take and how long those units would take to drive down prices are both subject to debate. Suffice to say a housing solution is years away. By paying his (tech!) workers jack shit, Stoppelman is absolutely part of the problem — and now has a PR crisis on his hands.

How long will it last? In an age where Uber drivers reportedly earn less than minimum wage for 80-hour weeks, and yet plenty of people, young and old, check Yelp in their Uber on the way over to a restaurant (whose back of the house, we'd wager an appetizer, relies on undocumented labor), probably not too long.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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