MENLO PARK, Calif. - Facebook (FB) shuttle bus drivers voted Wednesday to unionize in an attempt to get better pay and working conditions, a move that experts say could lead other service workers in Silicon Valley to unionize.
Drivers with Facebook's shuttle bus contractor, Loop Transportation, voted 43-28 to join the Teamsters Local 853.
"This is the change we've been waiting for, but we'll see what happens when we start negotiating a contract," elated driver Cliff Doi told the San Jose Mercury News. "We just hope the rest of the shuttle drivers around the Bay Area will join us in our fight."
Facebook drivers have complained for months about how their $18-an-hour wage and split shifts make surviving in one of the nation's most expensive regions a daily struggle.
Many drivers say they have to sleep in their cars or at Loop's shuttle yard in the hours between bringing Facebook employees to work each morning and then picking them up in the afternoon.
That the average Facebook software engineer makes almost $120,000 year, according to Glassdoor.com, made their own modest wages seem even more offensive, the drivers said.
San Jose State University sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton said he thinks the joining of a union by the 84 full- and part-time drivers could signal to other lower-wage workers that union representation may be a way to narrow the income gap in the Valley.
"Wages have remained stagnant while these top tech icons are booming and showing record profits," Myers-Lipton said. "Average Americans are saying that they just want to share in the growth that's going on around them, especially here in Silicon Valley."
For some activists, the shuttles that transport thousands of city workers each day to Silicon Valley have become a symbol of economic inequality, rising housing costs and evictions in San Francisco and they have targeted them while protesting gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area.