Silicon Valley Rising: More Drivers Unionize with Teamsters to Transport Big Tech

Teamsters Compass union

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Over the weekend, bus drivers at Compass Transportation entered the Teamsters union hall in San Leandro, California and voted 75 to 0 to approve a three-year contract. It includes solid raises as well as improved schedules and benefits.  

The drivers joined Teamsters Local 853 in February and began negotiating the influential deal.  Their victory is part of a larger movement — recently coined “Silicon Valley Rising” — in which labor unions, community groups, and churches have improved wages and conditions for the region’s service workers.  The nearly 200 bus drivers employed by Compass provide shuttle services to companies such as Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Evernote, Genentech, Zynga, and Amtrak.

As the drivers prepared to vote, Rome Aloise, Teamsters Vice President and the local union’s principal officer, told the group:

“What you are doing today here is a historic thing. You are changing the face of a whole industry.  We are raising the bar so people in this industry can make some decent money and get decent health care for your family.”

Compass Transportation drivers made between $17 and $21 an hour before their new deal. That will increase to $25-$27.15.  They will also be eligible for vacation and sick leave for the first time, recieving 11 paid holidays and 72 hours of paid sick leave.  The negotiations also tackled the issue of the split shift, which forces drivers to stay on corporate campuses for up to 8 hours without being paid.  Workers will now receive a higher hourly pay in order to compensate for down time.  

The contract is in line with one negotiated by the union earlier this year for workers at Loop Transportation, who transport Facebook employees.  That victory was seen as a momentum builder for the budding labor movement. According to a recent report from Joint Venture Silicon Valley, the median income for skilled tech workers tops $118,700, while low-skill workers’ wages hover around $27,000.

Speaking to The San Jose Mercury NewsRome Aloise said:

“It’s a continuation of what’s happened with the Facebook drivers, which enables many of them to make changes in their life such as being able to move closer and afford a number of things they couldn’t before.”

Compass Transportation will now take the contract to its tech company clients for approval.  Compass Vice President Bryan O’Connell told The Wall Street Journal the vote was not binding, but added that he hoped the contract would be “well-received and ultimately supported by our clients and employees.”  Apple told WSJ “it is working with several contractors to increase drivers’ pay and working conditions.”  

One of the companies has already gone on the record in support of the drivers.  In a statement, Greentech announced:

“We have advised our vendor, Compass Transportation, that we support implementation of the higher wages agreed to with its employee union effective immediately.  We encourage both parties to continue negotiating in good faith the remaining terms of the agreement, but do not believe these continued negotiations should delay implementation of the drivers’ pay raises,””

The momentum built by the drivers at both Compass and Loop has helped give confidence to workers in other service industry fields. Last week, the Teamsters announced that more than 140 warehouse and shipping workers at the Palo Alto-based Google Express filed to join the union.  The workers currently earn between $13 and $17 an hour and are subcontracted through temporary staffing agency, Adecco.  According to the Teamsters, workers are required to sign short-term employment agreements with Adecco that limit them to two years before the company lets them go.  Aloise addressed this situation as well:

“The reports we have received from workers at Google Express paint a bleak picture.  It is surprising that Google, a company that prides itself on the treatment of its workforce, would allow this behavior to continue at Adecco.”

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