Tech firms have flooded Silicon Valley with speculative capital, but labor is pouring sweat equity into the Bay. Recent labor victories in Big Tech’s heartland show that front-line workers of the “innovation” sector’s lunch lines and bus lines still hold leverage in keeping the corporations humming.
Cafeteria workers are relishing a win at Intel’s Santa Clara headquarters with a 31-12 vote to join UNITE HERE Local 19. During the months-long organizing drive, the union filed a federal complaint alleging that Intel’s dining contractor, Eurest, suppressed campaign activities, including cracking down on workers wearing pro-union buttons. Eurest was also accused of violating state regulations by restricting workers’ bathroom breaks, though it has agreed to recognize the union.
Toxic labor relations at Intel’s cafeteria predated Eurest’s management; in 2014, a previous contractor had scrapped a workforce—a move that prompted the union to launch a fresh organizing campaign with the new workers, who earn about a quarter of the typical hourly wage of a local software developer. According to organizer Joyce Chen, in the lead-up to the vote, “Eurest offered many workers a 20 percent raise and workers won free individual health insurance. We hope to negotiate an initial contract with Eurest in the coming months to build from there.” (Intel claimed in May it was looking to resolve the dispute with the parent company, Compass, and holds its vendors to the voluntary standards established in the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition Code of Conduct, which includes guaranteed freedom of association).
The Teamsters got a boost with a card-check vote at Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, which operates commuter shuttles for mega-brands like Cisco, Zynga, and Intuit. Though the Teamsters have organized other tech contract drivers, the Bauer’s battle was especially rough, culminating in a mandate for “labor harmony” issued by San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Authority. The unique labor peace requirement, backed by the City Council, was partially spurred by demonstrations against Bauer’s at (where else?) muni-bus stops.