Labor

Silicon Valley Tech Worker Fired After Blogging About Starving While Working at Billion-Dollar Food Delivery Firm

Her letter is a summary of the economic misery many millennials have found themselves in after leaving college.

A fired employee from the Silicon Valley tech firm Yelp! has raised anger over the $1.38 billion company’s labor practices after writing a blog that pointed out that the profitable company’s employees are struggling to survive.

The employee, known as Talia Jane online, posted on her Medium blog that many employees can’t make basic living expenses, in an open letter to the company’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, according to Business Insider. After publishing the letter, Talia Jane was fired from her post as customer service agent.

Her letter is a summary of the economic misery many millennials have found themselves in after leaving college.

“So here I am, 25-years old, balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn’t involve crying in the bathtub every week,” she wrote. “Every single one of my coworkers is struggling. They’re taking side jobs, they’re living at home. One of them started a GoFundMe because she couldn’t pay her rent.”

But it seems San Francisco-based Yelp! didn’t appreciate her essay. No more than 2 hours after posting it, Talia went on Twitter to say she had been fired.

She had been paid just over $733 biweekly and was paying $1,245 monthly for rent.

“I make $8.15 an hour after taxes,” she said.

Among her other grievances, she writes, “I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries.”

Business Insider says her letter and firing have led to an outpouring of support, including people donating to her PayPal account to help.

In an interview with Business Insider, she says while at Yelp, things got so bad she woke up with hunger pains.

“I brought up the wages in every quarterly meeting I had with my managers,” she said. “They were well aware that I was struggling despite doing what I could with what I had. The last straw was when I woke up yesterday two hours after going to sleep because my stomach hurt from hunger. And it’s something I’m used to, but this time it was really driving me to put something in my stomach immediately – I couldn’t wait 15 minutes for my rice to cook and it all became very clear that this shouldn’t be an issue I was dealing with to the point where I forgot it wasn’t normal.”

Yelp and its CEO both responded to Talia’s letter and firing.

“We agree with her comments about the high costs of living in San Francisco, which is why we announced in December that we are expanding our Eat24 customer support team into our Phoenix office where will pay the same wage,” Yelp said in a statement.

 

Stoppelman also responded, saying:

Late last night I read Talia’s medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high. I have been focused on this issue, backing anti-NIMBY group SFBARF and speaking out frequently about the need to lower cost of housing. I’ve not been personally involved in Talia being let go and it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me. Two sides to every HR story so Twitter army please put down the pitchforks. The reality of such a high Bay Area cost of living is entry level jobs migrate to where costs of living are lower. Have already announced we are growing EAT24 support in AZ for this reason.

He further denied being involved in her firing.

Talia’s predicament is only the latest in the bad public relations Silicon Valley is getting for the precipitous inflation of the cost of living in the Bay Area coupled with severe economic inequality.

Earlier this week, “Tech Bro” Justin Keller gained widespread notoriety when he published an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and police chief Greg Suhr bemoaning the presence of homeless “riff raff” who he and other wealthy people had to endure while commuting to work.

After catching wind of the backlash, he posted an apology — sort of, saying the use of the term “riff raff” was “insensitive and counterproductive.”

Bethania Palma Markus is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist.