The bus drivers who ferry Facebook employees to and from the company's Silicon Valley headquarters have voted to join the Teamsters union.
Drivers employed by Loop Transportation, Facebook's shuttle bus contractor, on Wednesday voted 43-28 to join the union. In addition to increased wages, drivers seek changes to their schedule, which they say often require them to begin work at 6 a.m. and end their shift at 9:45 p.m., with up to six hours of unpaid time in between
"We can't continue 16-hour days, having drivers sleeping in the cold in their cars while we wait five hours to be able to start our next shift. It's inhumane," Cliff Doi, a Loop Transportation driver, said in a statement. "With our union, we can find solutions to these problems."
Jeff Leonoudakis, the CEO of Loop Transportation, said the company will begin negotiating with the Teamsters. Saying that it respects the results of the drivers' vote, the company said in a statement that it provides its employees with "one of the best wage and benefit packages in the Bay Area."
Loop Transportation said its drivers earn between $18 to $21 an hour, but Teamsters officials assert that the wages don't allow drivers to live near their jobs in the Silicon Valley, where rents have skyrocketed in recent years.
"These companies need to step up and stop demanding the lowest bid contract," Rome Aloise, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 853, said in a statement. "Of all the industries in the world, the tech industry can afford to compensate those that help make them successful."
Buses operated by tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple have become a symbol for wealth disparity and gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area. Protesters, who have targeted the commuter buses for many Silicon Valley tech giants, blame high-paid tech employees moving from Silicon Valley to San Francisco and Oakland with driving up rents and home prices in the area.
Last month, the Teamsters wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, urging the Facebook CEO to push the company's shuttle provider to recognize a drivers' union.
"While your employees earn extraordinary wages and are able to live and enjoy life in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Bay Area, these drivers can't afford to support a family, send their children to school or, least of all, afford to even dream of buying a house anywhere near where they work," Aloise wrote in a letter (PDF) sent to Zuckerberg in October.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.