Mr. Friedman said his first hint that the company’s leadership might not be practicing the values it preached came at a company “summer camp” retreat in the English countryside in 2018. He recalled that most rank-and-file workers roughed it in small tents on a fairground, which became a muddy mess in the rain. Mr. Neumann stayed in a large luxury tent.
“It was like a physical manifestation of the power imbalance,” Mr. Friedman said.
He said his concerns about the discrepancy between Mr. Neumann’s words and actions were solidified in recent months, amid reports that the company had spent $60 million buying a private jet and that Mr. Neumann had bought multiple mansions.
In the letter, workers say their concerns go beyond the coming layoffs. The coalition wants more input into how the company is managed because “we’ve seen what can happen when leadership makes decisions while employees have no voice,” though it doesn’t elaborate on its preferred way of influencing management.
The group says it also wants to ensure that the company responds appropriately to accusations of sexual misconduct, increases diversity and eliminates the requirement that employees resolve claims against the company through arbitration rather than in court.
Last week, a former WeWork employee filed a complaint against the company and Mr. Neumann contending that she had been discriminated against for becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave. The complaint, filed by Medina Bardhi, who worked as Mr. Neumann’s chief of staff, said he had referred to her maternity leave as a “vacation” or “retirement.” The company has said it will defend itself against the complaint.
In their willingness to make collective demands, the workers appear to echo the actions of employees at several tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon and Google, where 20,000 employees walked off the job last fall to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment. After the protests, Google agreed to end forced arbitration for employee disputes.
Members of the WeWorkers Coalition say they received advice from workers at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, who have been trying to unionize. But in line with workers at other companies, like Google, they say it may be more practical for them to engage in collective action without first trying to create a union.