WeWork’s workers are organizing

Posted by on September 08, 2017

WeWork — sorry, The We Company — is in freefall, and has been since its disastrous attempt to go public earlier this year. The co-working company’s S-1 filing revealed a whole bunch of chicanery, mostly in service of enriching Adam Neumann, its founder and CEO. Neumann’s bad behavior, however, has come with an immense human cost: he had thousands of employees beneath him, and after an emergency takeover by SoftBank, the company’s largest investor, their livelihoods are now in jeopardy. (Neumann himself is walking away from the flaming wreckage with more than a billion dollars.) Because of that, some We Company employees have decided to band together and demand the company treat them humanely through what is sure to be a tough restructuring.

As the WeWorkers Coalition, the group sent an open letter to their company’s management that at once acknowledged the grim reality of their situation and also the We Company’s future. “Thousands of us will be laid off in the upcoming weeks. But we want our time here to have meant something,” they wrote. “We don’t want to be defined by the scandals, the corruption, and the greed exhibited by the company’s leadership. We want to leave behind a legacy that represents the true character and intentions of WeWork employees.” That legacy includes demands for a seat at the decision-making table, more transparency and accountability, more diversity, and more serious investigation into sexual misconduct, among other reasonable requests.

As The New York Times reported this morning, Marcelo Claure, the SoftBank executive who’s been put in charge of the We Company cleanup operation — he’s been appointed executive chairman and is now in charge of restructuring — responded to the letter with “an email that indicated he took their concerns seriously, but with little elaboration.”

Though the WeWorkers Coalition isn’t an official union effort, it is a collective expression of workers’ concerns, in line with recent collective efforts at other large tech companies like Google and Amazon. The WeWorkers Coalition told the Times that they’d received advice from the workers organizing at Kickstarter, who have been attempting to form a union in spite of sustained opposition from management.

“We are not asking for this level of graft,” the WeWorkers Coalition’s letter reads, in reference to Neumann’s outsized payout. “We are asking to be treated with humanity and dignity so we can continue living life while searching to make a living elsewhere.”

The WeWorkers Coalition did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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