Silicon Valley’s blue-collar workers remain on edge in the epidemic

57-year-old Nora Morales, an overnight watchman at California’s Mountain View main campus, knows better than anyone else how vacant Silicon Valley offices have become. In recent months, while working in his 8 am-4pm shift, he sees hardly anyone but service personnel overnight. Pre-pandemic, there were always some Google employees working odd hours.

“It’s a little lonely, a little empty,” he said in Spanish.

Vacant offices have caused more concern for Morales as more tech companies delay any returns to the office at least next summer. Even though her schedule allows very little time to sleep, she relies on a $ 33,000 annual salary to support her family, who live in nearby San Jose. Her daylight hours are filled with cooking, household chores and helping her grandchildren in online school.

“The uncertain future of whether our work continues or not is a very frequent topic of conversation,” Morales said.

Morales realizes the uncertainty of many other blue-collar workers in Silicon Valley. She has a story, but several in a new report released on Thursday by Silicon Valley Rising, a labor activism group led by the labor organization of the group Working Partnerships USA based in San Jose.

The report found that most major tech companies have hired thousands of their servicemen for now, especially those who are unionized, with the future uncertain. Some companies, such as Verizon, Genentech and LinkedIn, have halted contracts with their service contractors, due to which people have already laid off people.

According to the group’s research, approximately 14,000 union workers in Silicon Valley work as cafeteria workers, watchmen, security officers and bus drivers, among other positions. Such jobs are a “lifeline for communities of color”, it found.

The report found that about two-thirds are Black or Latino, and collectively they are estimated to earn $ 538 million. Typically, they do not work directly for tech giants, but for one of the third-party contracting companies. These workers do not have the option to work at home. They also felt that if they lost their jobs, there are very few jobs they could find, instead.

“There is an uncertainty for these workers – they don’t know how long it will last,” said Lewis Averahan, director of economic and workforce policy at Working Partnership USA, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Many big tech companies continue to make huge profits even after the economy collapses. Last month, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook combined reported a net profit of $ 38 billion. Microsoft, the parent company of LinkedIn, made a profit of approximately $ 14 billion during the third quarter of 2020.

But what is certain is that these workers have few options if their jobs go away – especially work that benefits. Madeleine and Francisco Rivera report that a married couple say their salaries – $ 26.72 and $ 22.60 per hour, respectively, remain important to their family, which supports their toddler-age son, August. His employer, Compass Group, which provides food service to Google, pays its health insurance premiums.

Rivers, who met while working as a barista and dishwasher at Google’s Mountain View campus, has been convinced to work as a receptionist on the campus, aside from his pre-pandemic positions in food service. They are grateful for any work.

“We won’t be able to go to the dentist or doctor,” Medellin Rivera said. “Taking that away would be disastrous.”

Francisco and Madeleine Rivera act genuinely welcoming at Google. He worked in a campus cafeteria, but his jobs have changed during the epidemic.Courtesy Madeleine River

Financial lifeline

Since the onset of the epidemic, tech companies led the work-from-home movement.

In May, Facebook and Twitter said they would allow most white-collar employees to work from home indefinitely. Google and Amazon have committed to letting their workers stay home until next summer. But they often know little about their commitments to the safety and security of the white-collar rank and file, including those who cook, drive, clean up.

Employees receive food in 2018 at the Urban Cafe Dining Area at Facebook Campus in Menlo Park, California.Michael Small / Bloomberg via Getty Image

To be fair, most technology companies have attempted to provide financial support for these workers. Twitter spokesman Catherine Hill said in an email statement that the company continued to pay the “majority” of its service contractors.

Google spokesman Alex Karsov referred to NBC News in a March blog post in which CEO Sundar Pichai said “hourly service vendor workers in our expanding workforce who are affected by work schedules are compensated for the time When they must have worked. “

Facebook spokesman Chloe Meyer said in an email that the company continued to pay all contract personnel whether they were able to work at home or not.

It has indeed been a lifeline for workers like Lilliana Morales, who are suffering badly, but continue to be paid for their cafeteria jobs on Facebook. A mother of three children, Morales said she spends most of her time helping with her school work.

“If they continue to pay us, I will be able to pay my rent and buy food for my family,” she said in Spanish. “Facebook is doing the right thing. God bless them and especially at this time, it’s so uncertain that we don’t know what to expect, and most importantly, we have something to support our families Should be. “

Mixed experience

There is an atmosphere of uncertainty regarding these payments. Blue collar workers do not always know why some jobs may remain and other jobs may disappear.

“There is a lot of panic, a union that represents employee shuttles and bus drivers for major tech companies,” said Stacey Murphy, vice president of Teamstar Local 853. “We try to remain optimistic and keep an open mind.”

For example, take Genentech. It would seem at first glance that a biotechnology company actively working on Kovid-19 research would have hired all its workers.

While it has put about 80 drivers on a revised schedule, it was one of several large companies that cut several dozen janitor jobs, as it decided to “mothball” some of its corporate offices as of August, Stephen Boardman, spokesman for SEIU United Service Workers West.

It is also understandable that Amazon will base its drivers on its development through the epidemic. But in October, according to Teamsters Local 853, Amazon became the latest of five major tech companies to stop paying transit companies that hired drivers.

Between March and September, companies including LinkedIn, Salesforce, Electronic Arts and Nvidia terminated contracts with transportation providers, resulting in driver layoffs. The LinkedIn decision meant that 40 drivers lost their jobs.

Salesforce and Electronic Arts did not respond to requests for comment. Nvidia spokeswoman Lauren Finkle said by email that the company “continues to pay many of our service providers”, but did not offer further extensions.

A LinkedIn spokesman, Kenley Walker, said that because LinkedIn does not hire shuttle drivers, it did not make the staffing decision. But Walker said that “affected employees” took advantage of LinkedIn’s offer of “free premium membership” and professional coaching.

Quite a few tech companies have also kept their drivers and expanded during the epidemic.

Facebook, which is the largest employer of unionized drivers in Teamsters Local 853, has continued to pay its nearly 500 drivers, who work at four contracted transportation companies, said Tracy Kelly, an organizer with Local 853. Apple, Microsoft and Twitter drivers at paid furloughs.

Tesla, according to Local 583, is continuing its workers for its Fremont manufacturing facility and is expanding new routes north east of Antoch, Oakland, and Gilroy south of San Jose.

Tesla Factory in Fremont, California.For John Breaker / NBC News

Boardman said that for the most part, watchman workers, maintenance and security guards kept their jobs.

Boardman said, “The buildings don’t get any smaller. They don’t require any less maintenance.” “Security has seen almost no layoffs.”

Unemployment ends

In September, Erica Sanchez, a longtime cafeteria worker at the Verizon Media office in Sunnyvale, California, found out she was one of 120 employees who were losing their jobs, voicing their concerns in a word called “discorcatedada” or “unsalted.” done. “

Sanchez worked in the cafeteria for 12 years, during the era when it served as Yahoo’s headquarters. At the end of her term, she was working in the cafeteria for $ 19 an hour, or about $ 38,000 per year.

She applied for unemployment insurance, which she said in Spanish that she did not think her expenses would be covered. She supports her and her son, who is set to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley next month, and is temporarily living in Washington DC while doing an internship.

Erica Sánchez was a longtime cafeteria worker at the Verizon Media Office. For John Breaker / NBC News

As of November, Sanchez, 46, of San Jose, said he had not yet received any unemployment benefits, nor had he found a more permanent job. She has managed to pay her rent, and has received food mainly through Hunger at Home, a local nonprofit, where she volunteers.

“I’m fine. I’m hanging in there, but financially I’m struggling and surviving,” she said, doing odd jobs, cleaning houses and selling jewelry and blankets with a relative Is included.

When asked if she sells her merchandise online, she said she does not know how, even though she has worked in the technology industry.

“But this is something I would like to learn how to do,” she said.

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