Only days after Google announced it would stop using outside security contractors in favor of hiring its own force, the move is already being described as the possible start of a trend.
The Wall Street Journal said what Google does “can be influential.” A Forbes report said “Should the move turn into a Silicon Valley trend, it could be the beginning of significantly improving the fortunes of thousands of people in the service industries.”
Pressure has been building for a few years to improve pay and benefits for the thousands of Silicon Valley contractors who provide security, prepare and serve meals, clean offices and handle other non-tech services. Now, Google’s decision to hire some 200 security guards as employees, rather than continue contracting with a security staffing firm, is likely to encourage renewed efforts by unions in the pro-labor San Francisco Bay Area.
Just last week The New York Times reported some of Facebook’s bus drivers are asking the Teamsters for help.
Union organizing efforts both in Silicon Valley and at some other tech companies elsewhere has been going on for some time without much success. Then the Service Employees International Union in particular stepped up the pressure talking about the racial and economic disparities in America’s high tech center.
Last year Google was picketed by unionized security guards protesting the wages paid to the contract guards it used. Other Silicon Valley firms have faced similar protests by the SEIU. In early September 12 union activists were arrested for staging a sit-in at the Apple store in San Francisco.
A report on the disparities between Silicon Valley’s tech employees and the janitors, landscapers and security guards who are mostly employed by staffing firms issued over the summer, got wide coverage.
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Tech’s Diversity Problem, More Than Meets the Eye, prepared by the labor-connected research group, Working Partnerships USA, said, “In one of the most diverse regions of the nation, the lack of diversity in tech’s highly-paid workforce is striking.” Blacks and Latinos are less than 4% at some of the largest and best known Silicon Valley firms. However, they make up 42% of the Valley’s contracted security guards, and as much as three-quarters of the landscapers and janitors.
The report also contrasted the median wage for these positions against the $63.62 hourly pay of a software developer. Janitors, whose $11.39 hourly wage was at the bottom,”would have to use his or her entire monthly income plus working overtime just to pay the rent on an average apartment.”
What effect the report had in prompting Google to hire its own security workforce isn’t known. The security contractor, Security Industry Specialists, insisted it decided to end the contract “as part of its normal business operations.”
SIS has been the target of an intense public relations campaign by the SEIU, which is seeking to unionize the company’s security guards. In a webpage on the company site, SIS said it is the “target of a vicious ‘corporate campaign'” by the union.