As the drunken mist clears in the wake of Adam Neumann’s long con that was WeWork, employees are calling for a modicum of sanity. In preparation for thousands of layoffs, which the company has reportedly delayed because it can’t afford severance, the non-unionized group who call themselves the WeWorkers Coalition submitted an open letter requesting fair separation terms, continued health insurance, and “a seat at the table” for continuing employees. They’ve also asked for compensation for lost equity after the company’s valuation dropped from $47 billion to $8 billion. Neumann, of course, understood it was time to cash out more than $700 million ahead of the IPO.
In asking for fair terms from We Company, the employees point out that Neumann’s annual “consulting fee” of $46 million, paid by SoftBank, amounts to more than the salaries of almost all C.E.O.s of public companies in the United States last year. One employee told the New York Times about how Neumann charmed the staff with empty workplace-isms, which began to wear off at last year’s “summer camp” retreat when Neumann slept in an extravagant tent while lower-paid workers were relegated to small tents in the rain.
They also note that building maintenance workers make just above minimum wage and that cleaners face uncertainty as they’ll be now forced to sign contracts with a third-party company.
The layoffs have reportedly already started at the WeWork-owned app company Meetup and WeWork’s soon-to-be-shuttered Manhattan private school. According to Recode’s reporting, a Meetup employee shared the terms of their severance package, which included three months of paid leave and one month of severance. The contract also reportedly includes a non-compete clause (whatever that means for a ~flexible~ real estate-coworking-tech-educational-investment company) and an agreement not to sue the company for workplace disputes.
Now that Neumann’s once-amusing ego trip (plans of eternal life and becoming Israel’s prime minister and/or President of the World, delusions that WeWork would “solve the problem of children without parents”) that single-handedly led to the company’s drastic overvaluation is no longer so funny–and the revelations of unchecked gender and pregnancy discrimination paint a much darker picture–the remaining thousands will have to negotiate over the scraps. So much for ending world hunger.
Gizmodo has reached out to the WeWorkers Coalition and We Company and will update the post if we hear back. Read the full letter below.
To the We Company Management Team:
WeWork’s company values encourage us to be “entrepreneurial, inspired, authentic, tenacious, grateful and together.” Today, we are embracing these qualities wholeheartedly as we band together to ensure the well-being of our peers.
We come from many departments across the company: building maintenance, cleaning, community, design, product, engineering and more. We believe that in the upcoming weeks we have the unique opportunity to demonstrate our true values to the world. This is a company that has inspired many of us, challenged us, and has been a formative personal and professional experience for those of us who began our careers here. WeWork has been not just a workplace, but a source of friendships and inspiration along the way.
We also believe our product can have a lasting positive impact on the world. We want to improve workplace happiness for millions of office workers and support small and medium sized businesses in their entrepreneurial efforts. We have been proud to support these goals and dedicate our time and talent to achieve them. This has been our story so far.
Recently, however, we have watched as layers are peeled back one-by-one to reveal a different story. This story is one of deception, exclusion and selfishness playing out at the company’s highest levels. This is a story that reads as a negation of all our core values. But this story is not over.
Thousands of us will be laid off in the upcoming weeks. But we want our time here to have meant something. 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.
In the immediate term, we want those being laid off to be provided fair and reasonable separation terms commensurate with their contributions, including severance pay, continuation of company-paid health insurance and compensation for lost equity. We are not the Adam Neumanns of this world — we are a diverse work force with rents to pay, households to support and children to raise. Neumann departed with a $1.7 billion severance package including a yearly $46 million “consulting fee” (higher than the total compensation of all but nine public C.E.O.s in the United States in 2018). We are not asking for this level of graft. We are asking to be treated with humanity and dignity so we can continue living life while searching to make a living elsewhere. In consideration of recent news, we will also need clarity around the contracts our cleaning staff will be required to sign in order to keep their jobs, which are being outsourced to a third party. Those of us who have visas through WeWork need assistance and adequate time to find a new employer to sponsor our respective visas.
In the medium term, employees need a seat at the table so the company can address a broader range of issues. We’ve seen what can happen when leadership makes decisions while employees have no voice. We will need to see more transparency and more accountability.
We also need the thousands who maintain our buildings and directly service members to receive full benefits and fair pay, rather than earning just above minimum wage.
We need allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment to be taken seriously, acted on immediately and resolved with transparency.
We need diversity and inclusion efforts to materialize into real actions, not just talking points at company meetings.
We need salary transparency so we can surface and address systemic inequalities.
We need an end to forced arbitration contracts, which strip employees of their right to pursue fair legal action against the company.
We need all of this, and more.
In the long term, we want the employees who remain at WeWork, and those who join in the future, to inherit something positive we left behind. We want them to never find themselves in this position again, and for that to happen, they need a voice.
With this letter we are introducing ourselves, the WeWorkers Coalition. We are taking full advantage of our legal right to establish this coalition, and in doing so, we hope to give the future employees of WeWork the voice we never had.
We want to work with you. Please join us in writing a better ending to this chapter of the WeWork story.
By this Thursday at 5:00 p.m. EST, we would like to receive confirmation of your receipt of this letter and an indication of your willingness to meet us.
The WeWorkers Coalition
Update: WeWork replied with the following statement:
Executive Chairman Marcelo Claure cares deeply about our employees and treating those who are laid off as part of the restructuring fairly, with dignity and respect. Our restructuring will include fair severance packages and continuation of benefits to help employees with successful career transitions. In addition to weekly letters and frequent all company meetings, Marcelo is in regular, direct conversation with employees across the organization to understand their views.