Local Tech Worker Suggests Protesters Learn To Code

May 20, 2019 (741 words) :: A fictional report from the Uber protest earlier this month.
Tags: fiction, gig-economy, working-in-tech

This post is day 140 of a personal challenge to write every day in 2019. See the other fragments, or sign up for my weekly newsletter.

May 8, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Annoyed by the disturbance of the Uber protest outside his workplace on Wednesday, Caviar software engineer Jared Taylor, 27, suggested that the protesters should simply learn to code. “Too many people in this city are trying to get handouts rather than putting in the work to make something of themselves,” said Taylor, referring primarily to the people gathered on Market Street to protest Uber’s exploitative business practices towards its drivers, such as continually slashing driver pay over the last several years. “Driving for Uber isn’t supposed to be a permanent thing. If you want to make good money, you need to learn some real skills.”

“People need to stop playing the victim and blaming others for their own failures,” continued Taylor, who attended Stanford as a double legacy and was recommended for his current job by his godfather, an investor in the company’s Series A round. “Like, tech is a meritocracy, you know? I don’t want a society where we coddle the weak simply because they’re too scared to face the real world.”

Taylor, who grew up in a $4.1m house in Palo Alto and who received a Tesla Model S as a college graduation gift, noted that the Airbnb founders were basically homeless when they came up with the idea for the now billion-dollar business. “See? If these guys can do it, anyone can,” says Taylor, referring to three white men who came from upper-middle-class families, attended prestigious universities, and were handpicked for mentorship by a prominent Silicon Valley investor who has admitted his tendency to be “tricked” by founders who look like Mark Zuckerberg.

When asked to comment on some of the protesting drivers’ claims that they are unable to afford rent despite working 40+ hour weeks, Taylor suggested that these workers are simply trying to live beyond their means. “It’s an expensive city, and if they want to live here, they’ll have to work for it,” said Taylor, who bought a 2-bedroom condo in the Rincon Hill neighbourhood in 2015 for $1.5m after his parents gifted him $250,000 toward the down payment. “They can always move to, like, Tracy.”

“Anyway, it’s not Uber’s fault that these drivers simply aren’t working smart enough”, insisted Taylor, whose own employer, food delivery company Caviar (a subsidiary of payments company Square), relies on the same regulatory loophole as Uber to argue that workers are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections, a legal strategy that has recently been ruled invalid by the California Supreme Court. “That’s the great thing about these apps - you have the freedom to choose your own hours and routes, and if you’re not making enough, you only have yourself to blame,” said Taylor, whose employer recently settled a lawsuit alleging that it withholds gratuities from its couriers. “If they don’t like it, they’re free to work elsewhere.”

“Ultimately, people are paid based on the value they contribute to society,” he concluded, who is paid a high six figures a year to work on a mobile app that has essentially the same features as every other app in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, not to mention other apps in the gig economy, but whose code is kept under corporate lock and key because this is what capitalism demands. “If these drivers want to make a better life for themselves, they have to earn it, by learning more valuable skills. It’s easier than ever these days - I see ads for coding bootcamps everywhere, you know? Anyone who works hard and smart enough can get a six-figure job in this city. You just have to stop whining and expecting other people to take care of you.”

At press time, Taylor was last seen writing interview feedback for a software engineering candidate from Howard University whom he described as not a culture fit.

This is my first time writing something in this Onion-inspired style, so please forgive me if it’s heavy-handed. Inspired by Anna Wiener’s write-up of the Uber protest in The New Yorker: In San Francisco, Tech Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, particularly this vignette featuring Square employees:

The protesters wound their way back up to Market Street. Two Square employees paused on the sidewalk to watch. I asked them if the demonstration had any bearing on their workdays. Both men shrugged. “Not really,” one said. “To us, it’s just a circus.”

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