Elon Musk’s Twitter also cut aid to unions

Overnight, in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover, the unions saw their help from Twitter’s charity program cut. Tech&Co went to meet some of them in San Francisco.

In a black suit, bright blue sneakers and a hat tilted back, Shaun Tai is used to talking to reporters. Visits the Bridgegoo association premises in Oakland, San Francisco Bay, installed in a huge fully equipped hangar. Sofas, screens, computers, everything is done to accommodate students who want to enter the technology sector.

“We were supposed to have a meeting at Twitter headquarters a few weeks ago that was canceled,” he said during the visit.

Because since 2013, Bridgegood has benefited from the Twitter for Good program, which provides financial, human and material assistance to associations. After that, the program was completely discontinued It took over Twitter By Elon Musk last October and Bridgegood is one of the associations affected.

The height of the situation came Shaun Tai, co-founder of the association In TeslaCars imagined by Elon Musk.

Founded in 2009, the association’s mission is to provide young people who lack access to the technology sector with the skills and resources they need to find work in Silicon Valley. For this, the association organizes meetings with, for example, Twitter employees, including UX designers, to communicate with students and give them advice.

The visit was canceled at the last minute

“Finding a job in tech is probably the hardest job, so we’ve built relationships with some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley,” continues Shaun Tai.

It all started in 2013 with Friday, which became Twitter for good. The idea was that two or three times a year, Twitter employees would attend association seminars. “We’ve had a great relationship with Twitter so far, from board memberships to grants to head office tours where we’ve brought 20 to 40 students,” Shaun Tai recalls.

But on November 18, things don’t go as planned. “We were excited to have our students come to Twitter to see what it’s like to work at a big tech company. The same week we had a meeting, they emailed us to cancel the meeting because of what’s happening at Twitter right now,” laments the co-founder. .And for good reason, the entire Twitter for Good team was fired.

Bridgegood was founded in 2009 and is on a mission to empower underserved youth in the technology sector.
Bridgegood was founded in 2009 and aims to provide young people without access to the technology sector © Margaux Vulliet

When he learned that Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter, he thought it was a joke at first, “but when it became a reality, I think we were not sure what to expect and we were confused. After we almost took over, I hoped that the team we were working with would stay in place, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.

He immediately put himself in the shoes of the students. The latter had never had access to the tech world and were counting on an association like Bridgegood to bring them into these companies.

“Musk is focused on the product, not the community”

The Bridgegood teams are no longer affiliated with Twitter since the event was canceled in November. “I even posted a tweet recently where I mentioned Elon Musk,” jokes Shaun Tai. In vain.

For him, “Elon Musk is more focused on the product, not the community,” especially the one involving Twitter. “If Elon Musk is a businessman, how do you convince him that helping the community and having diverse voices and other perspectives is good for business? That’s what I’m aiming for with Bridegood.”

Shaun Tai wants to continue this partnership to give students the opportunity to find tech jobs. The result is not so much financial for the association, it means loss of profit for the beneficiaries above all. “Discussion with employees is better than cash assistance because technology changes every six months. I hope Elon Musk will bring the program back to its base to improve it,” Shaun Tai concludes with a hint of hope.

“We never took the keys to the building”

The Compass Family Services association faced the same scenario. Its mission is to help homeless families in San Francisco find stability. Compass’ offices are located a stone’s throw from Twitter’s headquarters. Abbey Leonard, the association’s head of communications, lamented the end of Twitter for Good: “She was a truly special partner and it makes her loss all the more difficult.”

For four years, Twitter has supported Compass through a program called NeighborNest. Through this partnership, Twitter provided a space with computers, a computer lab, a childcare area and meeting rooms. People could come to take computer courses, print documents, access the internet, but also to look for accommodation, work and benefit from assistance.

Compass buildings welcome beneficiaries
Compass buildings welcome beneficiaries © Margaux Vulliet

In 2020, during the pandemic, Twitter temporarily shut down the site. “We had a new deal to reopen it in November, except we never got the keys back to the premises and the whole project went up in smoke,” the manager said. As Twitter was represented on the board of the association, the partnership was material, human, financial and administrative in nature.

Then think

On the Twitter side, Carl Robillard, the person in charge of the Twitter for Good program, was also fired. Therefore, the association is no longer affiliated with Twitter. “Even the HR we talked to left. We didn’t even know who to talk to because everyone was gone.”

“Now we have to think about how we can provide technological assistance to these families. We have tried to find ways to continue to help them. We are currently looking for other partners, but this was a solid program to find similar partnerships. It will take time,” says Abbey Leonard.

November 14 is a special Twitter for Good week every six months. In this context, Twitter organizes activities between its employees and volunteers from associations including Compass. This edition was a bit special because it was organized by former Twitter employees.

The end of this partnership does not mean the end of the union. In the first week of December, Compass organized a collection of toys for beneficiary families. The number of donations exceeded the association’s expectations: “We are really grateful, the children will be very happy,” enthuses the manager.

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