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yelpA twenty-something tech worker who took to Medium to complain about her pay has become something of a cause celebre on the social networks.

A woman who goes by the online handle, Talia Jane, worked as a customer-service agent for Yelp, which publishes crowd-sourced reviews. She wrote an open letter to CEO Jeremy Stoppelman outlining the ways her bi-monthly salary of $733.24 — was insufficient to meet her needs. Only hours after publishing, Talia Jane posted a note to Twitter saying she was fired without explanation.

If she was indeed fired because of her letter, she shouldn’t be surprised. Anytime an employee embarrasses or shows up their boss they’re begging to get canned. But the  question Talia Jane  raised, about whether lower-rung tech workers are fairly compensated, continues to come up.

The past few years have been a boom period for the tech sector, and yet some in the industry feel left out.

Drivers at Uber, the ride-hailing service valued at more than $60 billion, have organized protests and boycotts this year following the company’s decision to reduce prices. The reductions were designed to attract more customers, and what customer-focused firm doesn’t offer discounts now and again? But the difference is when Uber cuts prices, the company is also effectively slashing pay. When rates go down, drivers make less money.

Because of the price war at Uber and Lyft — uberX’s per-mile rates have dropped 50 percent since uberX launched in Seattle three years ago.

Seattle Councilmember Mike O'Brien speaks at a City Council meeting last year. (GeekWire File Photo)
Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien. (GeekWire File Photo)

Some drivers want to unionize. Last year, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien introduced a bill that enables Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers to organize. The legislation could potentially help drivers negotiate benefits they don’t now receive because they’re recognized as contractors and not employees. The Seattle City Council approved the legislation 8-0 in December, but the law has yet to take effect.

But how much support there is in Silicon Valley for Uber drivers and people like Talia Jane is unclear. In response to her note to Stoppelman, Talia Jane is receiving plenty of criticism. In contrast, a freelance writer who took to Medium to scold Talia for lacking a work ethic or humility, is generating lots of favorable comments. The general reaction is that Yelp doesn’t owe Talia Jane a living and she should either find a better-paying job or move to a cheaper city.

“Work ethic is not something that develops from entitlement,” wrote Stefanie Williams, the freelance writer. “Quite the opposite, in fact. It develops when you realize there are a million other people who could perform your job and you are lucky to have one. It comes from sucking up the bad aspects and focusing on the good and above all it comes from humility. It comes from modesty. And those are two things, based on your article, that you clearly do not possess.”

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