Facing mounting pressure from Trump, big labor focuses on unionizing masses in Silicon Valley

DCNFTim Pearce, DCNF

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest unions in the U.S., finalized new union contracts for about 3,000 sub-contracted security guards in Silicon Valley Monday.

The new swath of members will bolster union ranks at a time when organized labor is facing mounting pressure from the Trump administration and disenchanted union members. Labor groups have focused in on the Silicon Valley to make up ground they are losing in other areas.

The new SEIU members, made up of subcontractors hired by the area’s tech giants, will receive a pay raise of $1.20 an hour by January, as well as increased benefits in health care and more days off, according to the union blog Stand For Security.

Tech giants such as Google and Facebook use subcontractors to fill many roles, such as cafeteria workers, security guards, maintenance workers and coders, within the companies. The subcontractors in general make less money and receive fewer benefits and perks than company staff. The dichotomy has created a working environment ripe for union promises to attract a flood of new members.

Though the employees that labor groups are targeting through campaigns and messaging do not work directly for the tech corporations, unions are able to win members over and stamp down resistance by targeting the tech giants.

“We won by beating up Facebook, not beating up Loop,” California Teamster union leader Rome Aloise told Bloomberg about unionizing 87 shuttle drivers in 2014. Facebook hired the contracting company Loop to provide shuttle drivers for the social media giant.

Unions already lost major battles, including one in the Supreme Court, in 2018. A June 27 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME released roughly 5 million public-sector workers from paying union fees as a prerequisite for employment by the government. Union losses could total in the hundreds of thousands as workers take advantage of their newly secured rights.

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