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Tech Companies Creating An Underclass Of Latino, Black Service Workers In Silicon Valley

Tech Companies Creating An Underclass Of Latino, Black Service Workers In Silicon Valley

Posted by Juan Gavasa on August 27, 2014

Just weeks after internal reports released by tech giants like Apple and Facebook found that these companies rely primarily on white and Asian men for their top-paying jobs, Working Partnerships US’s report found that while Santa Clara County's workforce is 28 percent Latino or African-American, they make up just a tiny percentage of professionals inside technology companies – and most work in the service industries on the campuses of the companies.

Four out of 10 security guards, seven out of 10 janitors and three-quarters of grounds maintenance workers in Silicon Valley are black or Hispanic, the report found.

“The service workers who are a critical part of the industry's business model deserve to make a living wage and share in the wealth and prosperity of the industry, just as the engineers and coders do," Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, told USA Today. "These numbers represent real people: black and Hispanic workers who work hard but remain in poverty. Their jobs make this valley work. The people who protect and serve Silicon Valley's new elite need deserve dignity in their own occupations."

While Silicon Valley has been touted in recent years as the land of opportunity for up-and-coming geeks looking to make millions on new designs, this is not the case for many low wage-workers struggling to make ends meet in the increasingly pricey northern California neighborhoods.

For every one tech job, four service workers are needed and these laborers don’t work for Apple, Microsoft or Google. They are hired through contract companies and do not receive the pay or benefits that have been given to the coders and designers whose desks they clean.

"This is the new Silicon Valley model. Companies have two work forces: their professional work force and their contract work force," said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. "It's a bifurcated system. You have the high-end work force: the architects, coders and sophisticated PhDs, and you invest heavily in them and feed them and create this cocoon-like environment that answers their every need. And then, on the other hand, you need armies of people doing basic functions, so you set up a separate and distinct system for them."

While the median hourly income for a software developer in Santa Clara County is $63.62, janitors only make $11.39 and security guards $14.17, according to the California Employment Development Department.

Many of these service workers also receive little to no health benefits or retirement plans, with 59 percent of building and grounds cleaning jobs and 55 percent of private protective service jobs not doling out sick pay. Working Partnerships US suggests a $5 raise would be enough to lift a security into self-sufficiency and would only amount to a rounding error for accountants working at these tech companies.

"All workers in the tech industry from all levels deserve good jobs and the opportunity to provide for their families," Eulogia Figueroa, a janitor on Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus told USA Today.

Apple hasn’t addressed the pay for its service workers but it did recently acknowledge its workforce isn't as diverse as it should be. Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his disappointment in a letter posted alongside the company's data. Lower-level executives of the other tech companies had addressed diversity when they disclosed the compositions of their workforces.

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