Teamsters in Silicon Valley took part in a roundtable discussion this week with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez about efforts to raise standards for workers in Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry.
The roundtable was hosted by Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of labor, faith and community groups and workers, including the Teamsters Union. Security guards, bus drivers, food service workers, representatives from labor unions and industry leaders all participated.
The Teamsters have organized hundreds of workers throughout Silicon Valley in the past year, including shuttle drivers who transport workers at companies like Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, eBay and more. Rome Aloise, President of Teamsters Joint Council 7 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif., said at the roundtable:
“This is an opportunity for us to come together and talk about the income inequality that is bad for workers and for our region. We’ve made great strides to bridge that gap through organizing, raising wages and bringing health care to shuttle drivers in the tech industry. But there’s more work to be done.”
Some estimates put the number of contract workers in Silicon Valley at 77,000. Many of these workers keep the world’s most profitable corporations running, yet they barely earn enough to make rent in one of the most expensive places in the nation to live.
While companies innovate and grow, the workers who enable those profits must also afford a standard of living beyond what many of them now experience. Silicon Valley Rising’s members talked about the importance of a middle class, and how Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry has an opportunity to show the rest of the nation that successful companies are successful due to the collective efforts of the entirety of the workforce.
Tommy Leyva, a Teamster at Compass Transportation, talked about the difference that being part of a union has made. Since he and his co-workers organized recently with the Teamsters, they have won improved pay, paid benefits and more. He also now has a more manageable schedule, with free time to spend with his grandson.
Also this week, members of Silicon Valley Teamsters showed up in force at a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting to protect a labor harmony requirement for high-tech shuttle buses.
In March, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution requiring the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to consider the labor practices of commuter shuttle operators as part of their permitting process. In November, the SFMTA voted to make the city’s commuter shuttle pilot program permanent, while also ensuring labor harmony for workers employed by commuter shuttle operators.
What this means is that those commuter buses that transport workers to and from high-tech company campuses, and which are allowed to use public transit stops to do so, have to play fair and uphold labor standards.
Under the labor harmony provision, a failure to operate responsibly could lead to the revocation of the commuter shuttle company's permit, including if a labor dispute spills over and affects MTA operations.
Teamsters ensured that the labor harmony requirement will move forward in the face of a legal challenge toward the permit program.
The Teamsters are providing a voice on what matters, at the forefront of standing up for workers in Silicon Valley and beyond!
For more on the Teamsters tech campaign, visit https://teamster.org/tech-drivers-deserve-union.
To learn more about Silicon Valley Rising, go to www.siliconvalleyrising.org.