Unions Increase Effort to Organize Silicon Valley Contractors

In the past three years, union shave organized 5,000 people who work on the campuses of household named companies in Silicon Valley. For example, shuttle drivers for Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook are now union. Likewise, security guards for Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook, along with cafeteria works at Cisco, Intel, and Facebook are union members. To be clear, though, the unionized workers are not employees of these companies; they are employed by the contractor companies providing shuttle, security, and cafeteria services to employees of those companies.

This is not a joint employer blog post. I’ve done enough of those lately. Rather, this post highlights the pressure unions put on tech giants to acquiesce to the unionization of the contractors the tech giants utilize. Silicon Valley Rising is a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups leading the organizing campaigns. According to an involved union organizer, “everyone knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we’re focused on the big guys.

In 2014 the Teamsters organized Facebook shuttle drivers employed by Loop Transportation by, according to the organizer, “beating up Facebook, not beating up Loop. We got press in Japan, Germany, and all over the world by saying Facebook. Nobody would’ve given a shit if I was saying Loop.” Facebook ultimately approved the union contract that hiked drivers’ average pay by half and for the first time provided for fully paid family health care.

Similar pressure put on other tech giants also resulted in their contractors unionizing. The culture in Silicon Valley, and in the tech space in general, is averse to agitation and bad publicity while favoring employee work-life balance and perks. I wonder if cities like Columbus (ranked 3rd best tech city in the country) and Raleigh and Baltimore will see similar strategies as their tech companies mature?

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.