After Facebook Victory, Shuttle Drivers at Silicon Valley Companies Look to Unionize

Alex Lubben

Drivers at eBay and other Silicon Valley companies have to work gruelingly long shifts of over 12 hours, yet only get paid for eight. (rmfphoto.net/)

Back in Novem­ber, dri­vers for Facebook’s shut­tle-bus con­trac­tor vot­ed 43 – 28 in favor of union­iz­ing with the Team­sters, a rare win for labor in the tech indus­try. Now, shut­tle dri­vers at six oth­er com­pa­nies in Sil­i­con Val­ley are look­ing to fol­low the dri­vers’ lead.

The Team­sters have con­tact­ed the CEOs of eBay, Apple, Genentch, Zyn­ga, Amtrak and Yahoo, inform­ing them that their dri­vers want to join a union. The union says the major­i­ty of the 120 dri­vers have already signed union cards.

Com­pass Trans­porta­tion, the con­trac­tor whose dri­vers bring these com­pa­nies’ employ­ees to and from work, has so far offered no com­ment on the union­iza­tion effort.

While work­ing in Sil­i­con Val­ley is cushy for many of its coders and oth­er tech work­ers, full of work­place perks like in-office doc­tors, chi­ro­prac­tors and phys­i­cal ther­a­pists, the ser­vice work­ers who cook the food and dri­ve the employ­ees to work are reap­ing lit­tle of tech’s boom­ing profits.

Like the Face­book dri­vers (who work for anoth­er shut­tle bus con­trac­tor, Loop Trans­porta­tion), the Com­pass Trans­porta­tion dri­vers work split shifts, dri­ving in the morn­ing, wait­ing dur­ing the day and resum­ing work in the evening. The result: Dri­vers need to be present for 12 to 16 hour days, but are paid for only eight hours of work.

In his Jan­u­ary 8 let­ter to the com­pa­nies, Team­ster rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rome Aloise wrote:

We stand ready to prove our major­i­ty sta­tus by sub­mit­ting autho­riza­tions of rep­re­sen­ta­tion to a mutu­al­ly agree­able third par­ty Team­sters Local 853 is hope­ful that we can estab­lish a rela­tion­ship that will ben­e­fit both your com­pa­ny and your employ­ees. You can make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of the work­ers who sup­port your employ­ees and enable them to make your com­pa­ny incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful. Com­pa­nies such as yours have been a source for social change. It is time that you are a force to change the lives of those that make what you do possible.

Orga­niz­ing all of Sil­i­con Valley’s shut­tle dri­vers was Aloise’s plan from the start, he told the New York Times back in Octo­ber. But he says the union is fac­ing some oppo­si­tion from Com­pass, which is pur­port­ed­ly attempt­ing to pre­vent union­iza­tion by post­ing what the Team­sters claim is mis­lead­ing infor­ma­tion about the union” in their offices.

Still, fresh off the suc­cess­ful union dri­ve at Face­book, Aloise is con­fi­dent. We’ll pre­vail either way because they have got the exam­ple of the Face­book peo­ple going through the same thing and stand­ing up,” he told the San Jose Mer­cury News. Next, Aloise said, the union plans to turn to Google’s shut­tle dri­vers, who also work for Loop Transportation. 

Alex Lubben is the for­mer Deputy Pub­lish­er at In These Times and is cur­rent­ly a free­lance jour­nal­ist in New York. You can fol­low him on Twit­ter at @alexlubben.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH