DRIVERS who shuttle Facebook employees to and from the company headquarters in Menlo Park., Calif., have voted in favour of representation by Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif.
The 87 drivers, employees of Loop Transportation, organised to improve their working conditions, including low pay and an abusive split shift schedule.
‘The only way that Loop will listen to us is with a union and a collective voice. I’m very relieved that we have that now,’ said Demaurae Hooston, a driver.
Loop Transportation is one of a number of operators that Silicon Valley companies contract with to provide transportation for their employees.
‘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.’
The effort of Facebook drivers to organise a union has drawn attention from all over the world. Drivers are forced to work split shifts, often waiting six hours in between picking up and dropping off Facebook employees – all unpaid. The drivers often start work at 6am and end the day at 9:45pm.
‘We can’t continue 16-hour days, having drivers sleeping in the cold in their cars while we wait five hours to be able to start our next shift. It’s inhumane,’ said Cliff Doi, a driver. ‘With our union, we can find solutions to these problems.’
Last week, a rally was held outside Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, Calif., where community, political and religious leaders and Teamsters demanded that Facebook respect the rights of its bus drivers to organise a union without interference.
‘These drivers are part of the invisible work force that makes Silicon Valley run,’ said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA, a community group that participated in the rally.
‘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.’
‘The delegation delivered a petition containing thousands of signatures, calling on Facebook to stop condoning anti-worker, anti-union behaviour by Loop Transportation. Facebook refused to accept the petition when it was delivered.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dated October 2, Aloise wrote, ‘This is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants. Frankly, little has changed; except the noblemen are your employees, and the servants are the bus drivers who carry them back and forth each day.’
• In Los Angeles, more than 100 supporters rallied last Friday at a local Chipotle restaurant to ask it to intervene with its supplier, Huhtamaki.
Workers who make the packaging for Chipotle’s burrito bowls work at Huhtamaki, a giant Finland-based company, earn less than $15 per hour.
Huhtamaki is one of the leading producers of single-use packaging in Commerce, Calif. Under previous management, these jobs were permanent manufacturing jobs, but now Huhtamaki hires temporary workers to pay lower wages with no benefits.
Huhtamaki workers in Los Angeles have been organising for a year for fairness and respect at the workplace. Workers report that the company prioritises production over health and safety.
Levi Ross, from the Huhtamaki Workers Committee, said, ‘I’ve been working at Huhtamaki in Commerce, California for three years.
‘I work hard to provide for my wife and two kids, but it’s been a struggle. Despite positive reviews from my managers, I still make barely enough to support my family and I can’t afford health care for my kids.
‘Recently, we tried to talk to management at our plant about these issues, but they ignored us and, instead, retaliated against us for speaking out.
‘Since Huhtamaki is ignoring us, we’re bringing our fight for justice to one of its customers – Chipotle. Huhtamaki supplies Chipotle with burrito bowl containers, a company which proclaims that it follows ethical standards for all the products it uses.
‘We think those same standards should apply to the workers of the suppliers, like Huhtamaki, that Chipotle contracts with.’
Huhtamaki has more than a dozen plants across the United States and an aggressive expansion strategy in this market based on creating low-wage, precarious employment.
Maria Elena Durazo, from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labour, spoke at the rally. Los Angeles port truck drivers also showed impromptu support for Huhtamaki workers.
• Representatives of worldwide dockworkers’ unions meeting in London, England have pledged their support for the ILWU in the West Coast contract talks and questioned the PMA’s commitment to a fair and negotiated settlement.
The talks between the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and PMA (Pacific Maritime Association) began in May and cover 29 ports the length of the US West Coast, whose dockers are represented by the union.
The talks are conducted under a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to negotiate around the table, not in the media. Representatives of ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) dock unions heard today how the PMA broke this agreement through press attacks smearing the ILWU and saying that is it ‘crippling ports’ and ‘threatening holiday commerce’.
The ILWU has rebutted the charges on a point by point basis.
Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of its dockers’ section, commented: ‘These negotiations are massively significant, including to US trade. They’re too important for dirty tricks and childish one-upmanship. The ILWU understands and respects that. It seems the PMA
‘The association’s recent tactics are not just embarrassing, they’re potentially dangerous. It needs to stop, get its act together and commit to these talks. Along the way it can also address the backlog in the ports caused by its inexplicable chassis decisions, kill the attempts to deflect the blame for them, and bury any attempts to penalise shipping lines via surcharges for the PMA’s own mismanagement.’
He continued: ‘Today’s meeting of the ITF dockers’ section in London brings together dockworkers’ unions from across the globe. At it we have jointly pledged to offer our active solidarity support to the ILWU and its members by any and all legal means available to the family of dockworker unions around the world, in order to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
‘We all support a negotiated and fair resolution to these contract talks. We are calling on the PMA to prove that it is committed to that same aim.’