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‘We Are Not the Adam Neumanns of This World’: What WeWork Employees Told Their Bosses

The New York Times logoThe New York Times 4 days ago
a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by The New York Times Company

More than 150 employees of WeWork sent a letter to management this week asking to be treated humanely as the company prepares to lay off thousands of people. The employees, who call themselves the WeWorkers Coalition, made clear their anger at the company’s co-founder and former chief executive, Adam Neumann, and implored WeWork’s leaders to treat them with “dignity.” Here’s what the letter said:

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.

Adam Neumann, co-founder and former CEO of WeWork © AP Adam Neumann, co-founder and former CEO of WeWork

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.

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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.

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