These Low-Wage Workers Are Rising Up to Take On Silicon Valley

By Posted in - Movement Building on January 28th, 2016 0 Comments

Silicon Valley has one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the world, and tech companies are reaping massive profits. Most of this tsunami of wealth gets passed onto the tech world’s CEOs, top programmers, and shareholders. But guess who doesn’t get a cut of that enormous pie? Workers like janitors, groundskeepers, landscapers, and security guards – they’re left struggling to even feed and house their families, all in one of the richest parts of the country.

But a coalition of unions, community-based organizations, workers, and faith leaders are teaming up to change the game, having formed a coalition called Silicon Valley Rising. On their website, they state:

Low wage workers do their part to make Silicon Valley the most prosperous region in the world, yet they struggle every day to feed their families, pay their rent, and take care of themselves and their children when they are sick.

Although the region’s top tech firms made a record $103 billion in profits in 2013, one in three Silicon Valley households do not make enough money to meet their most basic needs.

While their direct employees are often well compensated, high tech companies contract out most of their jobs to workers who are poorly paid and don’t receive basic benefits.

And in a stark diversity gap, blacks and Latinos make up the majority of these janitors, food service workers, maintenance workers, security guards, and shuttle bus drivers who help build and sustain the tech economy — yet comprise just 3-4% of the core tech workforce.

What do the workers and organizers of Silicon Valley Rising want? It’s simple, really: a more just and fair portion of the wealth they help to create.

We aspire to a new vision for Silicon Valley where all workers, their families and communities are valued. We have high expectations for this Valley and for our communities:

  • We want to be a part of creating a new economic model that rebuilds the middle class.
  • We want to raise wages and standards for all workers so they can live and thrive here.
  • And we want to build housing that is affordable and accessible so that our families don’t have to live in garages, in their cars, or near a creekbed.

We also have to wonder: what if these tech companies were converted into worker-owned cooperatives, businesses equally owned and run by the employees? We made the argument for tech collectives in Fast Company back in 2013. Since then, the idea has caught on even more. Forbes reported that if Apple were a a worker owned cooperative, every employee would have more than enough money to feed and house themselves and their families:

Apple has 98,000 employees and earned $39.5 billion after tax over the past year. If Apple was a worker cooperative, then each employee would’ve received a $403,000 dividend on top of their salaries. Even the lowest paid worker would’ve earned at least $403,000 in Apple as worker cooperative.

We’re sure that the same could be true for Facebook and Google.

If you want to help out the important organizing being done by Silicon Valley Rising, you can get involved via their website.

*Featured image via Silicon Valley Rising website.

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