Facebook Bus Drivers to Join Teamsters; Silicon Domino Effect Coming?

A majority of bus drivers clicked "Like" on their union ballots this week.

A majority of bus drivers clicked “Like” on their union ballots this week.

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Drivers who shuttle Facebook employees from the Bay Area to company headquarters in Menlo Park voted to join the Teamsters union on Wednesday.  The drivers, whose primary concern was scheduling which forced a six-hour break midday, are employees of Loop Transportation. They voted by a 43-28 margin to join the Teamsters Local 853.  

Loop driver Cliff Doi told the San Jose Mercury News:

"This is the change we’ve been waiting for, but we’ll see what happens when we start negotiating a contract.  That’s when the real battle begins. We just hope the rest of the shuttle drivers around the Bay Area will join us in our fight.”

In a statement, Loop Transportation CEO Jeff Leonoudakis, said:

“Loop Transportation respects the election results and the decision of our drivers who service Facebook.  Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process.”

Drivers are also seeking better pay.  Their fight is being viewed as part of a broader Silicon Valley wage and workers rights fight. Rent is sky high in the Bay Area but wages are not soaring in kind.  According to the Teamsters, the drivers at Loop Transportation earn roughly $40,000 a year, compared to the average software engineer who makes $126,000.  

Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA, participated in a rally around the issue of inequality in the area:

“These drivers are part of the invisible workforce that makes Silicon Valley run.  They are members of our communities that work hard every day, but live in poverty, and the business model of tech companies like Facebook counts on that. Tech companies write the checks to subcontractors who hire these drivers and the thousands of other service workers who make these tech giants able to function. They need to set the standards, too, and say ‘no’ to poverty jobs.”

Rome Aloise, International Vice President of Teamsters Local 853, said in a statement:

“These companies need to step up and stop demanding the lowest bid contract. They need to all agree to pay their contractors an amount that allows the union to negotiate for decent wages and benefits. Of all the industries in the world, the tech industry can afford to compensate those that help make them successful,” said Rome Aloise, International Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 853. “We’re ready to get to work at Loop to help these drivers better their lives and the conditions they face at work – to get them some justice.”

San Jose State University sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton sees the potential for a domino effect. He told CNBC that the victory could result in low-wage workers at other Silicon Valley companies seeking collective bargaining as well:

“Wages have remained stagnant while these top tech icons are booming and showing record profits,” Myers-Lipton said. “Average Americans are saying that they just want to share in the growth that’s going on around them, especially here in Silicon Valley.”

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