The mayor wants businesses to take a “pledge” to return their workers to offices, in a new Welcome Back to SF campaign that’s long on business interests, and short on public health concerns.
There’s no question that downtown San Francisco and the Financial District’s coffee shops, lunch spots, and bars have taken a beating as downtown has been a ghost town for going on two years now. But our stay-at-home, shelter-in-place abundance of caution has paid off, as SF has maintained by far the lowest COVID-19 death rate of any major U.S city. (Houston’s death rate has been five times ours, NYC’s has been five and a half times ours.) Seems like a shrewd trade-off, no?
But with the COVID-19 case rates improving but still pretty bad, some companies are getting quite antsy to get those employees back in their cubicles. And the boldest expression of back-to-the-office antsiness comes from Mayor London Breed, whom the SF Business Times reports is asking businesses to take a “Welcome Back to San Francisco pledge” to bring/force their employees back as soon as possible, if not sooner.
By committing to San Francisco, these businesses and many more are investing in this city and the people who live and work here. We are excited to welcome people back to downtown to work, dine, and experience our arts and culture. March is a new chapter for SF! #WelcomeBacktoSF https://t.co/O5fcEw2pbI— London Breed (@LondonBreed) March 3, 2022
“Mayor Breed has worked with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and business leaders on implementing return to in-person work policies through the ‘Welcome Back to SF’ pledge as the Omicron surge subsides,” Breed’s office announced in a press release, which is undersigned by Uber, Visa, Wells Fargo, and many other blue-chip SF corporations. “By pledging to Welcome Back to SF, each of these companies is committed to implementing return to in-person work policies in March.”
lol yes the most london breed tweet possible https://t.co/YVLfbxGK2i— keith kurson (@keithkurson) March 3, 2022
The term “pledge” is odd wording, but what about this: “Mayor Breed has worked with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and business leaders on implementing return to in-person work policies….”
Is the SF Department of Public Health named anywhere there? Nope! Are the top executives quoted in the release (like Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi) committing themselves to the same in-office requirements they now ask of their employees? Nope! Are there any new vaccine mandates, or safety measures to make sure we iterate on this safely? Nope!
It’s true that SF is behind on workers returning to the office relative to other cities. According to the Business Times, “Data by Kastle Systems, a key-card entry system used by thousands of employers, show that barely 20% of San Francisco’s pre-pandemic office workforce had returned to working on-site as of mid-February. That has hindered the recovery of downtown San Francisco and the restaurants, retail and other businesses whose main clientele is office workers.”
The city of San Francisco is requiring city employees to return to work March 7, which is absolutely their right. But is it inherently bad if San Francisco is slower to return to the office? Certainly restaurants and retailers want the foot traffic, but does it help them if more workers get sick or are hospitalized? Have they considered the possibility of how this affects their servers, bartenders, and baristas’ level of risk?
It seems odd that Breed and her captains of industry cannot even make a performative statement about safety concerns, just to even create the appearance of checking that box.
So CEOs and top executives are ready to pledge to Breed, but they’re not the ones who are going to get hazed.
Image: @LondonBreed via Twitter