Facebook, other tech firms face pressure from drivers over work conditions

The increased unionization of drivers reflects unease about growing inequality in Silicon Valley

Facebook and other tech companies in Silicon Valley are facing increasing pressure from its shuttle drivers to improve working conditions, amid concern about growing inequality in the area.

Loop Transportation drivers, who transfer Facebook employees to and from the company's Menlo Park, California campus, have reached an agreement with the contractor that, among other benefits, will increase their average pay to US$24.50 an hour from the current $18 an hour, International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Sunday.

The agreement will have to first be submitted to Facebook for approval as the paying client. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Loop drivers who work for Facebook voted in November to join Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro.

"These are life changing improvements for these drivers that will allow them to live a more sustainable life, support their families, have decent health care and plan for the future," said Rome Aloise, international vice president and secretary-treasurer of Local 853, in a statement about the new agreement.

The organization is now aiming to unionize the drivers of Compass International, which has service agreements with tech companies like Apple, Yahoo, eBay, and Zynga. The drivers for these companies are to vote on representation by the Teamsters later this week.

The use of underpaid contract staff by Silicon Valley companies for functions such as janitors, cooks, drivers and security guards has been criticized previously.

"These 'invisible' workers do not share in the success of the industry which they daily labor to keep running," according to a report in August last year by community labor organization Working Partnerships USA. It said that tech companies in Silicon Valley use underpaid black, Latino and immigrant workers, hired through contractors, as landscaping workers, janitors, cooks and security guards.

Google said in October it would employ on its payroll security guards, rather than have them placed by a contractor.

The tech industry in Silicon Valley has also been under pressure from civil rights groups, such as the Rainbow Push Coalition of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, for not employing enough of blacks and Latinos in their staff. Microsoft said recently it was spending US$300 million to have more women and under-represented minorities in its staff by 2020.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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