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Latest News - March 2015

February 27, 2015
Apple bus drivers vote to join Teamsters 140-38 as labor claims another Silicon Valley victory

Capping a week of rare labor victories in Silicon Valley, the Teamsters added more members to its rolls as drivers who shuttleApple Inc., Genentech Inc. and other tech employees up and down the Peninsula voted to join the union today.  The drivers, employed by Compass Transportation, hope a union contract will lead to improvements in pay and vacation and family leave, said driver Tracy Kelly.

The jobs' split shifts – which often leave drivers stuck on corporate campuses or at bus yards for up to eight hours without pay – have also been a point of contention. "You work eight hours a day, but you are at the job 18 hours," he said in an interview before the vote.  Beyond working condition, some drivers said their wages didn't keep up with the region's cost of living. "We have drivers that live in their cars," he said. "That's a shame."

The 140-to-38 tally in favor of unionization still needs to be certified by the National Labor Relations Board, which gives five days for any objections to be filed. Teamsters International Vice PresidentRome Aloise suggested that the margin in favor of unionization is too large for objections to change the result.  The company that employs the drivers and contracts with some of the biggest names in tech, Compass Transportation, said in a statement it would wait to comment until after the NLRB certified the vote.

In earlier statements, Compass Senior Vice President Bryan O'Connell said the company paid wages competitive within in the industry and expressed concern about potential intimation during the vote.

The Teamsters' victory comes less than a week after drivers that shuttle Facebook Inc. employees for Loop Transportation approved their first union-negotiated contract. That deal increased wages by $5.75 an hour on average from about $17. It included employer-paid health insurance, a 401k match and changed the split-shift system.  But, said Aloise, there is still a ways to go for many workers in Silicon Valley. "We are talking about 250 drivers. That's a drop in the bucket," he said.

Union leaders and other activists are looking to build off recent successes and a movement to unionize janitors, kitchen staff and security guards on tech campuses is also a foot. This afternoon, the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, South Bay Labor Council, the NAACP, Affordable Housing Network, Asian Americans for Community Involvement teamed up with faith leaders and others at Cesar Chavez's old East San Jose stomping grounds to announce the creation a new group Silicon Valley Rising.

The coalition plans to lobby and organize around increasing wages for all workers, affordable housing and holding tech companies accountable for how all workers on their campuses are treated and compensated.  The rally at Our Lady of Guadalupe drew more than 100 chanting and clapping people who heard from labor and faith leaders, as well as community organizers. "In Silicon Valley," the South Bay Labor Council's executive director Ben Field said, "one out of three workers don't make enough to make ends meet.

Noting that people of color hold many of the tech support jobs – drivers, cooks and others, he warned of increasing "occupational segregation."  The workers' demands, Aloise told the crowd, don't amount to much in terms of tech companies' bottom lines.  "What it means to these companies is about what they spend on Ping-Pong balls in a year," he told the crowd. As part of the ongoing movement to encourage tech companies to share record profits, SEIU is planning two rallies in two weeks: One at Apple's March 9 event at the Moscone Center and another at Apple's Cupertino headquarters.



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