Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Silicon Valley Shortchanges Latino Janitors: A Union Campaign Goes after the High-Tech Companies but Skips Race

Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Silicon Valley Shortchanges Latino Janitors: A Union Campaign Goes after the High-Tech Companies but Skips Race

Article excerpt

FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, California-based companies like Google, Genentech and Cisco have topped Fortune's list of "100 Best Companies to Work For." Google in particular offers its employees three square organic meals a day, a sandbox to play volleyball in, and on-site doctors and masseuses. But these company perks don't apply to the janitorial staff that cleans the Google playground, because they are hired through subcontractors. Janitors, who number 4,000 in Silicon Valley and 20,000 statewide in California, are paid well below the standard of a living wage.

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The California Budget Project released a study in 2007 entitled, "Making Ends Meet: How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Family in California?" The study assessed that in order to meet basic needs such as housing, food and healthcare, a family of two adults and two children would need $72,343 a year, or about $17.39 per hour if each adult worked 40 hours a week. A family with just one working adult would need to have that person earning $24.22 per hour. About 80 percent of union janitors, however, are supporting their families on annual wages of $21,424. Under their current contracts, California's janitors earn $10.30 an hour and must wait up to two and half years for family health insurance.

Since union contracts were set to expire in April, the Service Employees International Union, better known as the SEIU, started a Justice for Janitors campaign targeted at several high-profile clients, including Google, Genentech and Hewlett-Packard. …

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