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Facebook Shuttle Drivers Vote for Union. Now What?

Scott Lucas | November 20, 2014 | Story Tech World

Drivers for Loop transportation, the company that Facebook contracts to ferry its workers to Silicon Valley, voted to form a union yesterday—the first step in what could become a larger movement to unionize other shuttle drivers. The vote took place at a ballot station set up in a San Carlos bus lot used as a rest area by the drivers, and went 43-28 in favor, with 11 abstentions. The Teamsters will now represent the workers.

(For an excellent dramatization of the importance of a union to wage workers, check out this old episode of The Simpsons. No. Really.)

So what happens now? There are a few possible scenarios.

Better Working Conditions: The shuttle drivers are partly concerned with low pay, but also the six-hour unpaid gap that they have to take between shifts driving to and from Silicon Valley. They’d like that gap to be shorter. Having a union improves their bargaining power and could lead to changes there.

Other Drivers Unionize: Facebook’s shuttle workers aren’t the only ones who could be seeking to form a union. Rome Aloise, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 853, alluded to that in a public statement, saying that "these companies need to step up and stop demanding the lowest bid contract." As goes Facebook, so too could go Yahoo or Apple.

Other Kinds of Employees Unionize: Union officials have tried to organize other blue-collar workers, like security guards. As Valleywag points out, that's a move that tech companies have pushed back against.

Facebook Plays Hardball: The company has stayed out of the unionization effort on either side, despite an open letter from the Teamsters to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to intervene on the side of the drivers. Since the workers who now are in the union work for a independent company, Facebook could play tough and let Loop go and bring in a new non-unionized operator. A sign that might not happen: Facebook has been good about letting the drivers have access to corporate perks like the cafeteria. Maybe they’ll do the right thing by them here. Facebook has declined to comment.

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