Dear Mr. Kalanick,
When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address on Jan. 12, he said, “Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.”
The president’s words must have come as no surprise to you since his former senior adviser David Plouffe is on your board of directors and since his former Attorney General Eric Holder is now your attorney.
Both of these gentlemen have distinguished themselves as advocates and defenders of diversity and equal opportunity for all.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a technology-driven economy has squeezed workers and disrupted affordable living conditions, even while the overall economy is flourishing.
Here in Oakland this economic disruption has made it harder for a family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for people to remain in the middle class and tougher for workers to live close to their jobs.
The benefits of this technological surge have been very uneven and have led to the biggest wealth gap we have ever seen. Your unwillingness to release your diversity data worries us about your commitment to Oakland’s diverse residents, especially since your advisers have a history seeking diversity through openness and transparency.
The evidence is clear that a tech driven economy is accompanied by some serious challenges, including the displacement of the working poor. That said, we reject the idea that we are powerless to shape the impacts of technology on diverse cities, especially given Oakland’s history of fighting back against policies and actions to disrupt and displace our neighborhoods.
We believe that there’s a great deal we can do to improve prospects for Oakland’s future and its current residents. We propose a three-pronged effort.
First, we recommend a set of basic agreements in the areas of jobs, education, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, housing, community engagement and research. There’s a strong consensus on several areas that can bring prosperity to Oakland’s current and future residents and there is no need to completely “reinvent the wheel.”
Second, we call on Uber to work alongside us to develop new organizational models and approaches that not only enhance productivity and generate wealth for Uber, but also create broad-based opportunity for working-class residents.
The goal should be inclusive prosperity in Oakland, and not just prosperity for Uber’s full-time workers. Your statement on your website saying that “we strengthen local economies” gives us hope.
Third, we request a meeting with you and a small group of us to reach an understanding. And, given that the digital revolution can get you this letter at half the speed of light, we expect to hear from you within three working days.
As you may agree, we believe that technology is delivering an unprecedented set of tools for bolstering growth and productivity that is currently unharnessed.
Together we can create a city of shared prosperity if we learn about each other, find ways to meaningfully collaborate, and together address the challenges brought by a growing tech workforce in Oakland.
If one simple idea can lead to a $65 billion valuation and perhaps the biggest IPO the world has ever seen, then it’s possible for us to co-disrupt and co-develop a road of shared prosperity in Oakland.
Paul Cobb, Publisher, Post News Group
Orson Aguilar, The Greenlining Institute
Sondra Alexander, OCCUR
Chris Iglesias, The Unity Council
Anne Price, Insight Center
Rev. Michael McBride, PICO National Network
Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., Allen Temple Baptist Church
Junious Williams, Board Chair, Oakland Community Land Trust
John Gamboa, California Community Builders
Joe Brooks, PolicyLink
Gay Plair Cobb, Oakland Private Industry Council
Rev. Dr. Gerald Agee, Pastor/Friendship Christian Center
Jae Maldonado, Street Level Health Project
Jane Garcia, La Clinica De La Raza
Zachary Norris, Ella Baker Center
Guillermo Mayer, Public Advocates
Joshua Simon, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
George Galvis, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
Arnold Perkins, National Employment Law Project
The California Reinvestment Coalition