Silicon Valley Rising

As Speed Matters has reported over the past few years, Silicon Valley is a land of huge economic contrasts. Although most Americans are familiar with the billionaire owners, developers and financiers in the region, fewer of us know about the vast number of low-paid workers who keep the companies cleaned, guarded, fed and running.

The large number of high-paid engineers, designers and marketers means that housing is extremely expensive. An ordinary three-bedroom house costs at least $1 million – the same sort of house that would cost one-fifth of that in many Southern and Midwestern neighborhoods. In fact, as a recent article from the Campaign for America’s Future, noted, “One in three Silicon Valley workers cannot even afford to live anywhere within a one-hour drive.”

And for many, the problem is even worse. “Although the region's top tech firms made a record $103 billion in profits in 2013,” said a new group, Silicon Valley Rising, “one in three Silicon Valley households do not make enough money to meet their most basic needs.”

And this inequality has taken on profound racial and gender undertones. As Speed Matters reported last summer, a group of California U.S. Representatives wrote an op-ed in the influential local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, saying “... it is painfully clear the sector faces a persistent and troubling deficit when it comes to women, African-Americans and Latinos.”

As a result, there have been a number of campaigns by labor and community groups – and by the workers themselves – to narrow the divide between the top and bottom. This past week, for instance, Facebook shuttle drivers signed a contract between the company and the Teamsters union, raising wages and adding benefits. Other similar campaigns are underway.

But Silicon Valley Rising has been formed as a coalition of many groups to “raise wages, create affordable housing and build a tech economy that works for everyone.”

Among the partners in the coalition are: CWA, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Unite Here, Latinos United for A New America, NAACP San Jose Chapter and SEIU United Service Workers West.

According to Silicon Valley Rising, the group “...will organize and fight for tech service workers, drivers, kitchen staff, security guards, maintenance workers, groundskeepers, cleaning staff, shuttle bus drivers and other support workers.”

As Ben Field, executive director of the South Bay Labor Council, says, “No one who works hard and plays by the rules should live in poverty. Silicon Valley Rising is a comprehensive effort to allow everyone to thrive in Silicon Valley’s tech economy.”

Silicon Valley Rising Fights for Worker Justice (Campaign for America’s Future, Mar. 5, 2015)
Silicon Valley Rising (website)
Silicon Valley persists in lack of diversity, write Democrats (Speed Matters, Jul.10, 2014)
Facebook drivers vote union, get wage raise, benefits (Speed Matters, Feb. 26, 2015)