Militant Journalism

Silicon Valley low-wage workers on the move

Cafeteria workers at Intel Corporation, along with Silicon Valley janitors, other low-wage workers, union activists, and community supporters, marched, rallied and carried out a civil disobedience action April 27 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Starting with a militant picket line across from Intel’s headquarters on Mission Boulevard, several hundred participants marched a few blocks in disciplined fashion, taking half the street, to a busy intersection where they rallied and continued to block traffic with a sit-down action that resulted in 10 arrests.

Among the messages on picket signs were “Inequality Inside” (replacing the Intel logo); “Tech cafeteria workers rise up!”; “Stop attacks on immigrant women”; “Stop sexual assaults on janitors”; and “Luchando para nuestro Silicon Valley” (Struggling for our Silicon Valley).

Silicon Valley Rising, a campaign initiated by the South Bay Labor Council, United Service Workers West (SEIU), UNITE HERE Local 19, Fight for $15, the Teamsters Union, Silicon Valley De-Bug, and others, organized the action. It was the second such action at Intel within three months and the largest.

Maria Guadalupe Guerrero

One of the people arrested, cited and released was Maria Guadalupe Guerrero, an Intel cafeteria worker, who along with her co-workers, is fighting for a living wage and a union. Guerrero, who spoke at the rally, works for Intel food service contractor Eurest, a subsidiary of Compass Group North America. Intel is typical among Silicon Valley high-tech companies who contract out food, janitorial and other services needed to keep their highly profitable, multi-billion-dollar operations going while paying the workers a pittance.

UNITE HERE has been in contact with Intel cafeteria workers about organizing since December. Local 19 represents some 4,600 food service and hotel workers in the valley. Prior to November 2014, cafeteria workers at Intel were represented by the union and employed by Bon Appetit.

Cafeteria workers in March turned in a petition to both Intel and Eurest asking the food service contractor to “agree to a fair process to enable us to exercise our right to organize and form a union without threats and intimidation.” Neither company has responded.

Possible strike by area janitors

Maria Gonzales

Maria Gonzales, an SEIU-USWW janitor who works at a tech campus, also spoke at the concluding rally, where an announcement was made regarding SEIU-USWW negotiations with cleaning service contractors over a “master agreement” that covers Northern California. The current contract expired April 30, and the SEIU-USWW says it will hold a vote to authorize a strike on May 2 if an agreement is not reached before then.

Enrique Fernandez, representing the South Bay Labor Council, announced at the rally that the area janitors, who number in the thousands, had already received strike authorization from the Labor Council, which means members of affiliated unions will not cross their picket lines in the event of a strike.

Vietnamese-American student under arrest

Among other impressive presentations at the rally was one by a Vietnamese-American student at nearby De Anza College. She explained how the huge profits of Silicon Valley high-tech companies are the result of exploiting workers around the world, and also addressed the plight of students facing rising tuitions and rents. She spoke about having to share a three-bedroom apartment with six other students and still struggling to make the rent. She is organizing students on her campus to take on the landlords and participated in the civil disobedience action.

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