Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants

Comments Filter:
  • Left Wing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @12:08PM (#55195883)
    San Francisco loves its left wingers, but somehow the economic side of that is left in the dust. It almost seems like they're authoritarian corporatists wielding identity politics as a pathetic fig leaf.
    • San Francisco loves its left wingers, but somehow the economic side of that is left in the dust.

      California in general, and SF in particular, have very pro-union laws snd policies, so I don't think there is any hypocrisy there.

      If you want to see hypocrisy, look at how prosperous urban California uses exclusionary zoning [brookings.edu] to keep the poor out of their cities.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        California's political establishment is fueled by Unions, the worst part is that the primary Union powers are public worker unions who are basically funded by the same government they have control over. Result = obscene pension plans and benefits that burden the entire state.

      • Re:Left Wing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sabri ( 584428 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @03:32PM (#55197811)

        California in general, and SF in particular, have very pro-union laws snd policies,

        The unions where also very powerful in Detroit. That did not work out too well ultimately now, did it?

        As with everything, there has to be a balance. I don't like powerful unions. I don't like unions that have obtained the right to grab money from my paycheck as they wish. I don't like unions dictating how a business should be run.

        I also don't like businesses like early Ford, peeping into people's windows to see if they adhere to Ford's personal morals. Or businesses that abuse workers like the truck companies that force their employees into leasing trucks. That's when unions are needed, to correct the imbalance.

        Unions and corporations are always playing a game of rope-pulling, and it is in everyones interest to maintain a healthy balance. You give some, you lose some. If one of either sides is able to "defeat" the opponent, everybody loses.

        • Re:Left Wing (Score:4, Insightful)

          by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @03:47PM (#55197979)

          Unions and corporations are always playing a game of rope-pulling, and it is in everyones interest to maintain a healthy balance. You give some, you lose some. If one of either sides is able to "defeat" the opponent, everybody loses.

          The best non-idiot post of the month!

        • because of slave labor in China & Mexico combined with corrupt national politics. That's what hurt the Unions in Detroit. That plus high power Union busting ("Rigth to Work"). Somewhat hilariously Canada recently demanded we put a stop to "Right to Work" laws to level the playing field between our employees and theirs as though we're a third world country. And ya know way, we kinda are...
    • Eh union power has nothing on 'em. They've got plenty of brain power [youtube.com].

    • by pots ( 5047349 )

      San Francisco loves its left wingers ... wielding identity politics

      Right. Sure, buddy.

      "The other group is always othering other groups. It's outrageous! We would never other others. That other group is scum."

      Honestly, I had to read your comment three times before I figured out that it was the tech companies that you were labeling as "left wing."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    See, the tech execs? They're not libertarians, they're greedy douchebags who expect to find cheap labor they can exploit while making shitloads of money.

    Let's not pretend that Silicon valley is some bastion of moral virtue. It's full of nouveau riche assholes who write op-ed pieces about how the poor and homeless are ruining the view for nouveau riche assholes.

    It's a fucking bro culture of self entitled pricks who might have some vestigial decency from a normal upbringing, but who are now cut throat busin

    • They're not libertarians

      None of the CEOs mentioned in TFA claim to be libertarians. Of those that have taken public political positions, most of the are liberals/progressives.

      they're greedy douchebags who expect to find cheap labor they can exploit

      They have located their companies in the World's most expensive labor market, and they have agreed to accommodate the unions and raise pay despite no legal obligation to do so.

      • Some have, others, maybe. While Microsoft is not in Silly Valley, they do reside in near-equally-liberal SeaTac... yet technically, their corporate headquarters is in Delaware (for tax purposes). Come to think of it, so is Intel, Google, Apple... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

        (note, info is a bit old, but I believe still accurate).

        • their corporate headquarters is in Delaware

          Most big American companies incorporate in Delaware. Delaware corporate law is considered "standard" and is by far the most well known by lawyers and financiers. There is rarely a sensible reason to incorporate in another state, unless you are so small that the $100 annual fee is significant.

          I once saw a presentation by Kleiner Perkins on "How to get VC funding". This was the first item on their list:

          1. Incorporate in Delaware

          If you are too boneheaded to get that right, they consider you too clueless to

        • by Anonymous Coward

          MIcrosoft is not located in SeaTac, SeaTac is a city where the airport is located. Mircosoft is located in Redmond Washington, which is a suburb of Seattle. Many microsoft offices are also in Bellevue, but little of Microsoft is in Seattle.

          That being said, the whole area is liberal, but Redmond and Bellevue don't put up with the homeless nearly as much as Seattle does (at least from what I can see driving around and reading the newspapers).

      • Shut up, you with your stupid.... facts. Your ruining a perfectly good jealous rant!

      • LMOL while hiring people from the World's cheapest labor market. Try again Potsy...
  • ... you didn't get assign projects that are due tomorrow that have ZERO requirements and then if you question where the requirements are you get labelled as being "negative". This is why we actually need representation unfortunately. Many tech company managers to do the equivalent of finding a corner in a circular room because that's "what we need" and then act surprised when you can't do it and say "What's your problem?"
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      Note that most of those manager types tend to not last very long (and if they run the company, neither does their company.)

  • SEIU (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @12:21PM (#55195993)

    I wouldn't want to hitch my horse to SEIU's tactics; I imagine eventually it is going to backfire.

    • “If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.”
      -- J. M. Smith

    • ...and quickly backfire all the way to Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai...

  • You're essentially trading advancement opportunity and part of your pay for security of a job. State laws, especially in CA, cover the vast majority of why Unions used to need to exist; now it's more about the bottom finding a way closer to the middle by forcing others there as well.
    • You're essentially trading advancement opportunity and part of your pay for security of a job. State laws, especially in CA, cover the vast majority of why Unions used to need to exist; now it's more about the bottom finding a way closer to the middle by forcing others there as well.

      Actually, to be blunt, what unions are about nowadays is simply existing as a business. They expand by finding new revenue streams, which are workers. So they find people that might not be happy with their work and convince them to joint he union to make things better. Then the union gets recurring revenue.

      I have no problems with unions, but if these folks want to unionize they should join together and do so. No need to send a big part of your check to the AFL-CIO or whoever each month.

    • Right, because NFL players are always trading part of their pay for job security....
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "... such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated."

    What a load of rubbish. Companies outsource these things because it makes sense. Apple isn't in the restaurant industry. Facebook isn't in the Corporate Security industry. Cisco isn't in the cleaning industry. Smart business outsource what they aren't good at or capabilities they don't have expertise in, and insource those critical differentiators that provide them with competitive

  • No surprises (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @12:39PM (#55196143)
    If you treat your every day rank and file service employees poorly and pay them less than a livable wage, then you can expect them to get angry and rise up. I am pro-union. As long as the upper echelon of companies are going to be greedy and expect slavery, then there has to be some checks and balances. And don't bother replying with some sarcastic response to pro-Union. Just go your own fucking way.
  • Defining terms (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @12:46PM (#55196183) Journal

    Let's be clear: Corporations are the aggregation of capital. Unions are the aggregation of labor. If you think one is a good thing, you have to accept the other as necessary.

    In fact, as that famous socialist Abraham Lincoln said, "Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, not every aggregation of capital is a corporation; corporations are a specific kind of aggregation of capital which are created in law.

      So it's possible to draw distinctions between the two.

      Another way of looking at this is what is the market function of the thing you're talking about? Companies (whether corporations or something else) exist primarily to reduce transaction costs. Rather than negotiate with you on every task I want you to perform, I *hire* you with a broad job description. Corporate

    • A lot of socialists trumpeted the dignity of laborers. Who could disagree with sentiments like this?

      We call ourselves a workers' party because we want to rescue the word work from its current definition and give it back its original meaning. Anyone who creates value is a creator, that is, a worker. We refuse to distinguish kinds of work. Our only standard is whether the work serves the whole, or at least does not harm it, or if it is harmful. Work is service. If it works against the general welfare, then i

      • Generally good principles, yes. Of course, it was mostly a fabric of lies, because the Nazis didn't believe in what Goebbels said.

        Looks like Goebbels the master propagandist found yet another person to believe him.

        • So what you're saying is that you agree with Nazis. My work is done here.
          • You will find lots of things you and I agree with Nazis on. Breathing and eating are good things to be able to do. Agreeing with the lies of Nazis is far from agreeing with Nazis, BTW. Study a bit of logic sometime.

    • by RJBeery ( 956252 )
      A corporation without a union is still an aggregation of labor; a union without a corporation is neither an aggregation of labor nor capital.
      • A corporation without a union is still an aggregation of labor

        No, it's a corporation with a bunch of individual workers.

        There are only two checks on corporate power: the government or labor unions. We have historical data on what happens when corporate power is unchecked by either. It was sarcastically referred to as the "Gilded Age".

  • It isn't compatible with unionization in any way, shape, or form. If for no other reason, the powers that be would never allow it.
    • Here's a business Idea. Lets create a Mobile App to social and geo enable Unionization. Have it funded by VCs.
      Revenue Model is that Big companies like Google will fund Series A or else their unionized employees on the app will strike.
      Profit!!!

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday September 14, 2017 @01:13PM (#55196453)

    I'm actually an advocate of companies retaining most of their employees as FTEs. Current accounting rules and tax law doesn't make this as appealing as it used to be. Too many companies pull a Pontias Pilate and wash their hands of any employee responsibility by hiring contracting firms to do things that aren't their "core competency." It's mainly these contracting firms that turn around and treat their employees like garbage to increase margin on their outsourcing deal. Living in a place like Silicon Valley and earning just over minimum wage as a cafeteria worker must require a huge sacrifice or a multi-hour commute to work a cafeteria job. If the contracting companies did a far superior job than FTEs would, I'd say they should definitely handle the work. But as we've seen in IT, contractors lowball salaries, bring in H-1Bs and offshore any work that doesn't require a physical presence. Services contractors like food service and janitorial companies will do the bare minimum required to make their employees not quit...and that bar is very low when you consider the exploitable nature of that workforce.

    What I would like to see on the skilled side of the house is a guild system that replaces the patchwork of vendor certifications, for-profit schools and other training methods. A traditional union is great for commodity workers, but a guild or professional organization works best for workers that don't have uniform levels of experience and aren't doing a simple job. If a company knew the baseline quality of someone they hired, that sure beats having the hiring manager and the team the candidate would work with try to decipher what on their resume is a lie or exaggeration. Most IT interviews I've been on have had a quiz component, and I'm sure that's because the company has been burned by bullshitters too often. It's not enough to graduate with a CS degree, and the field of IT and development is gotten so huge that it's impossible to be great at everything. I'm a big-time generalist and advocate for more people being like this, but I simply have to choose what I'm good at this year and keep shifting focus to be useful in any one area.

    Guilds and professional orgs would pretty much be the only thing that would work to organize technology workers. There are way too many prima donnas, "rockstars" and people who would never stoop to the level of a lower-skilled worker. This is why it works well for doctors, a group known for having egos that have an observable gravitational field. The organization is paid by its members to pay for laws that limit the ability to practice and keep the number of new entrants to a minimum. I'd actually like to see this because I really hate the fact that someone can be totally incompetent, get fired, then do the equivalent of joining the French Foreign Legion and get hired somewhere else as if nothing happened.

    • by ghoul ( 157158 )

      Guilds mean the exploitation of the young by the old. When the young agreed to Social Security and paying for the elder's retirements they also expected the old to get out of their way. So you want guilds? Lets cancel social security and Medicare and use the corpus to pay off college loans of everyone below 35.

    • I'm actually an advocate of companies retaining most of their employees as FTEs. Current accounting rules and tax law doesn't make this as appealing as it used to be.

      I think that's an understatement.

      Let me note at the outset that what I'm going to say is thirdhand information which may not be correct. I'd appreciate correction from someone who actually does know. In fact, the potential to provoke such a correction is 80% of the reason I'm posting.

      I've been told by people who I expect should know that federal labor law restricts corporations to having no more than two classifications of full-time employees with respect to benefits packages. The two levels allow compa

  • Just watched 'On the Waterfront' again. Not all evils are corporate.

  • "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world,"

    Which is why I make a point to avoid anything marked with "Fair Trade" and similar Leftist labels...

You are lost in the Swamps of Despair.

Working...