Friday, March 27, 2015

West Coast innovations in improving workers' lives

Two recent developments that promise to improve workers' lives caught our attention, and both have to do with the West Coast high-tech industry, including Microsoft, Apple, Genentech and Facebook.

In Seattle, Microsoft announced Thursday that it would require many of its 2,000 contractors and vendors to give  15 paid days off for sick days and vacation time for their employees who work for Microsoft. The New York Times notes,
As the economy has become more dependent on contract workers, workers’ rights advocates have voiced concern about their working conditions, especially for low-skilled jobs. 
The situation is particularly acute in the tech industry, where average full-time employees earn more than $115,000 a year, along with generous benefits like child care, gourmet cafeterias and luxury shuttle rides to work. Many of the contracted service workers — who take care of the children, cook the food or drive the shuttles — earn near poverty-level wages and often do not receive basic benefits like sick leave.
Of course, there's another way for contract employees to win paid time off: Organize. And that's what San Francisco shuttle drivers are doing with the Teamsters. 

The city's Board of Supervisor on Tuesday may have made it easier. It passed a resolution urging the city’s transit agency to consider labor harmony when approving commuter shuttles to high-tech firms. 

Recently, Facebook shuttle drivers who work for Loop Transportation were organized under the leadership of Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 853. In February they worked out a contract that raised the drivers into the middle class. According to the local, 
Under the contract, drivers now making $15-20/hr. will see their wages increase to $21-29/hr. They will enjoy fully paid family health insurance, paid vacation, holidays, sick days, retirement, and more.
Local 853 went on to organize drivers for Compass Transportation, which makes up some of the fleets for Ebay, Genentech, Apple, Yahoo, and Zynga. They have yet to reach an agreement. 

Said Brother Doug Bloch, Political Director for Teamsters Joint Council 7
There are a couple organizing campaigns happening as we speak, and the workers are afraid of retaliation. But that’s what the board addresses with this resolution.
Teamsters Local 665 is organizing shuttle drivers at Bauer Transportation, but not without difficulty. NBC Bay Area reported on Tuesday,
The Teamsters filed an unfair labor relations complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Bauer, citing Bauer’s surveillance of employees and efforts to prevent employee union elections. That complaint is currently under review. Bauer is one of the eight major shuttle contractors for large, and typically high-tech, Bay Area companies. 
When Teamsters began talking to Bauer’s shuttle drivers, the union felt that company management turned hostile. During outreach in the last month, Mark Gleason, principal officer for Teamsters 665, said that management at Bauer followed and confronted the Teamsters who were meeting with drivers in San Francisco. He wouldn't disclose the details of this supposed confrontation.

Let's hope San Francisco's transit agency heeds the Board of Supervisors.