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Monday, October 6, 2014

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Planning to Unionize

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 5:08 PM

click to enlarge Protesters block a tech bus. - JOE FITZGERALD RODRIGUEZ
  • Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
  • Protesters block a tech bus.
Those chartered tech buses might provide a luxurious service for the Google and Facebook employees who get to ride them, but for the drivers, they symbolize tough working conditions, piddling wages, and skimpy benefits.

Recently, tech bus drivers began relaying their complaints to mainstream media outlets and rendering themselves a cause celebre. Like security guards and janitors, they're part of the shadow economy that services multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley tech companies, without reaping the wealth.

That disparity rankles union representatives, who've redoubled their efforts to level the playing field.  Last week, the Teamsters sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to pressure Facebook's bus contractor, Loop Transportation, to recognize its employees' chosen union — they'll be represented by Teamsters Local 853.

"This is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven in their coaches by their servants," Teamster secretary-treasurer Rome A. Aloise wrote in a particularly passionate — and now widely quoted — portion of the letter. "Frankly," he added, "little has changed."

We have yet to hear Facebook's official response to Aloise's plea. This is, in fact, the second time the Teamsters have tried to organize Facebook shuttle drivers, though it's the first time the majority of bus drivers have signed on for Local 853 representation, which gives the union a stronger case.

And other unions are scoring small victories elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Last week, the SEIU announced that Google had finally dropped its security contractor, SIS, a company that union organizers have been battling for years. SEIU spokesman Alfredo Fletes called it "a step in the right direction."

Apple, however, continues its relationship with SIS, and it's unclear whether Facebook will take pity on its bus-driving workforce, whose members aren't actually Facebook employees.

Still, the Teamsters are hedging their bets. Aloise told the New York Times that once they've organized Facebook's drivers, they'll move on to Apple, Google, and other Silicon Valley companies.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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