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Jan
2015
14

Going Viral: Drivers at 6 More Silicon Valley Companies Have Signed Union Authorization Cards

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In November, when drivers contracted to transport Facebook workers voted to unionize, the hope among labor activists was a “domino effect” would ensue, and that more drivers would be called to collective action.  It’s unclear, however, that anyone expected that day to come so soon.

According to USA Today, the move to unionize Silicon Valley bus drivers is spreading quickly. The Teamsters union has contacted the CEO’s of six major Silicon Valley companies, USA Today writes, informing them that their contracted drivers are seeking to organize.  The companies include Amtrak, Apple, eBay, Genentech, Yahoo and Zynga.

According to Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853 and Teamsters International Vice President At-Large, a majority of the 120 full- and part-time drivers who work at Compass Transportation, which provides services to all six companies, have signed union authorization cards.  All companies refused to comment on the matter.  

According to Aloise, the victory at Facebook brought about immediate momentum. “The drivers at Facebook, by voting for the union, sparked the interest of the drivers from the other companies,” he said.

In the Bay Area and Silicon Valley these drivers have become a symbol of the inequality associated with the technology boom.  Tech company workers are thriving and the cost of living is skyrocketing, leaving many blue collar and middle class families in the dust.  The people contracted to work at these burgeoning companies are not earning enough to remain in the region.  

William Gould, a professor at Stanford Law School, explained to the USA Today that it isn’t only about wages, it’s about “how they are computed”:

These workers, as a practical matter, have to wait in certain areas to do their work (and) they are not compensated for that wait.”

The Teamsters’ effort could “enhance the working conditions of employees who have really been left out of the Silicon Valley boom and the resurgence of the American economy,” Gould said. “This organizing drive dramatizes the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

Signaling an interest in unionization is only step one. A harsh anti-union campaign could ensue for these drivers, depending how the six companies weight the potential public relations blowback associated with fighting the workers’ desires. Aloise is hoping to mitigate any tension by raising awareness about the prospect of union-busting in advance, as he did in a letter asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to do the right thing:

“Compass Transportation has already begun to employ union-busting methods in an attempt to discourage its employees from seeking the advantages that come with representation.You can make a difference in what will certainly turn to threats, coercion and intimidation tactics by Compass as it escalates its campaign to keep its employees unrepresented.”

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