Just before Christmas last year, shuttle buses carrying workers from home to their companies in Silicon Valley — Apple, Google and Facebook among them — were blocked by protesters. According to a Los Angeles Times report, the issue was the increasing divide between well-compensated tech workers and San Francisco residents who can no long afford to live in the city.
Now, some of the people who drive those buses are seeking unionization.
Facebook contracts with a company, Loop Transportation, to ferry its workers to the Facebook campus every day. Although in close contact with Facebook workers and their workplace every day, the drivers are not Facebook employees. The 40 drivers are seeking a contract with Loop that will help improve working conditions for the drivers, who, in the words of Teamsters Local 853, cannot afford to support their families.
The New York Times quoted Teamster representative Rome A. Aloise who said the Facebook unionization effort is only the first for what they hope will be contracts with all Silicon Valley companies.
Drivers regularly work a split shift, transporting workers to Facebook and then home again several hours later. Drivers are not paid for the several hours in between the two shifts. The Times spoke with one driver, Cliff Doi, whose morning shift went from 6:10 am to 11:10 am and evening shift from 5:15 pm to 9:45 pm. Doi lives too far away for it to be feasible or desirable to drive home in between the two halves of his working day.
Jeff Leonoudakis, Loop Transportation president, emphasized workers are treated well, making wages of $18 to $20 an hour plus overtime and medical and dental benefits. Workers also have access to a lounge in a trailer at the Facebook site. Although Leonoudakis said the company planned to install bunk beds, Doi said he had yet to see them. Leonoudakis told the Los Angeles Times that the lounge had recliners and a big-screen television.
Another Facebook driver, Jimmy Maerina, had his bus attacked during a protest like the one reported on by the Los Angeles Times. He is not happy with the split shift scenario or the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
“You spend 16 hours a day — no time for family, no time for the kids. When I leave home in the morning, my kids are sleeping, and when I get home at 9, they’re done with their homework. It’s very hard for me to make ends meet. Housing costs are crazy in the Bay Area.”
Teamsters Local 853 appealed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to support the union drive. In the letter Aloise said the Silicon Valley driver situation is “reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Facebook declined to comment on the issue. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is due to be in India later this week to discuss barriers to internet connectivity.
[Facebook Headquarters Image: Google]