Recent layoffs have ignited fear among service workers that Silicon Valley high-tech firms, which have kept them on the payroll and covered by health insurance during the pandemic, may soon reverse course, creating a wave of job losses.
Although Facebook, Google, Intel and others have continued to pay their subcontracted service workers during the pandemic, Verizon laid off 120 cafeteria workers, Lyft 90 janitors and Cisco 88 cafeteria workers.
According to a recent study by the research and policy advocacy nonprofit Working Partnerships USA, about 14,000 subcontracted union service worker jobs would be lost if policies change. The subcontractors work as cafeteria staff, janitors and security officers.
In its study, “Serving Silicon Valley: Tech Giants and their Service Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Working Partnerships USA said about 63% of these workers are Black or Latinx. Among them, 46% are building security officers, 70% are cafeteria workers and 71% are janitors.
In early September, single mother Alma Cardenas, who is supporting two daughters ages 16 and 21, was let go from Verizon.
“It’s been very stressful thinking about how I’m going to pay my rent and bills,” Cardenas said. “I’ve had to cut back on a lot of things and find places to go for free food and to cover the basics.”
Cardenas said in the more than five years she worked at Verizon as a barista, she always gave it her all, smiling and chatting with customers while making their drinks.
“We’re part of this community and what makes this company successful,” Cardenas said. “They shouldn’t just forget about us.”
Cardenas said she fears becoming infected with COVID-19 and not having health insurance.
In September, after being laid off from Verizon, cafeteria workers repeatedly protested, calling on the company to rehire them.
On Nov. 17, holding signs and banners, they delivered letters at Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan’s San Francisco home, sharing stories and calling on the tech giant to continue their pay and health care during the pandemic.
“In the early days of COVID-19, nearly all major Silicon Valley tech corporations announced they would maintain pay and benefits for their subcontracted workers while campuses are closed,” said Louise Auerhahn, director of economic and workforce policy for Working Partnerships USA. “This has been a crucial anchor of stability for the Black and brown communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19.”
Nvidia, a Santa Clara computer hardware manufacturer, continued to pay its 130 subcontracted cafeteria workers during the pandemic, including lead cook Marcial Delgado, even though the campus was closed.
“I’m happy I’m still able to pay my bills and keep my house,” Delgado said. “Otherwise, I’d be homeless.” Read more via SanJoseSpotlight