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Facebook bus drivers seek to organize union

Teamsters urge Mark Zuckerberg to support effort to improve working conditions and provide a wage that allows drivers to live near their jobs.

A 'like' sign stands at the entrance of Facebook headquarters on May 18, 2012 in Menlo Park, Calif
Facebook bus drivers unhappy with their working conditions and wages. Facebook

The bus drivers who ferry Facebook employees to and from the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley have taken the first step toward organizing a union, the latest example of the growing community animosity toward tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Teamsters officials have asked the Facebook chief executive to urge the company's shuttle provider to recognize a drivers' union in an effort to improve working conditions and provide a wage that allows them to live near their jobs.

"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," Teamsters official Rome Aloise wrote in a letter (PDF) sent to Zuckerberg last week.

"It is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants," Aloise wrote in the letter, which was also copied to Loop Transportation, Facebook's shuttle bus contractor. "Frankly, little has changed; except the noblemen are your employees, and the servants are the bus drivers who carry them back and forth each day."

Facebook declined to comment. San Francisco-based Loop Transportation could not immediately be reached for comment, but a company representative defended the company in comments made to the New York Times, saying that it has provided the drivers with a lounge in which they can relax in between shifts.

"We believe that we take really good care of our drivers," Loop Transportation President Jeff Leonoudakis said. "They're the heart of our company. Without them, we can't provide service to our customers."

The buses 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.

The median purchase price for a home in San Francisco today is nearly $1 million, according to Zillow, while the median rent is about $3,600. That made San Francisco the most expensive home sales market out of the 500 biggest cities in the country in June -- and the second most expensive rental market after Santa Monica, Calif.

Disdain for the shuttles operated by Facebook, Apple and Google to ferry employees living in San Francisco to their offices down the peninsula led to protests that blocked the buses' path and resulted in at least one bus being vandalized.