Silicon Valley, the Southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, and the home to the world’s largest technology corporations like Apple. In-addition, it is a place where thousands of small startup companies go to because it is known for being the land of opportunity. However, within these companies consisting of millionaires or billionaires there are those who are going ignored and finding it difficult to live in this prestigious area.
For every high-paying tech-job within a company, there are about four service workers who are barely making enough to survive on their earnings. These workers consist of janitors or custodians who clean; cooks and caterers who prepare gourmet lunches; security guards who protect the company’s grounds; and ferry workers who drive luxury shuttle buses to take workers to and from their jobs.
Within these companies in Silicon Valley like Apple, Facebook, and Google—to name a few—service workers are not on the payroll like their fellow co-workers but are employed through contract companies and don’t receive the perks that would be seen be those they care for.
In a report called, “Tech’s Diversity Problem: More Than Meets the Eye” by Working Partnerships USA—a non-profit program which advocates for affordable housing, higher wages, and access to health care for workers of color—reported that 4 out of 10 security guards, 7 out of 10 janitors, and 3 quarters of grounds maintance workers within Silicon Valley are Black or Hispanic.
“This is the new Silicon Valley model. Companies have two work forces: their professional work force and their contract work force,” said Russell Hancock, the president and CEO of Joint Venture—Silicon Valley.
Hancock goes on to describe the type of system that’s currently underway in the Silicon Valley.
“It’s a bifurcated system. You have the high-end work force: the architects, coders and sophisticated PhDs, and you invest heavily in them and feed them and create this cocoon-like environment that answers their every need. And then, on the other hand, you need armies of people doing basic functions, so you set up a separate and distinct system for them.”
David Well, the author of The Fissured Workplace, describes how the presence of a bifurcated system—or a two-tiered system described above—creates an atmosphere where those seen in an unequal standing face declining wages and a lower standard of living. Also, the system can lead to the wearing down of health and safety conditions for service workers.
According to their website, Joint Venture—Silicon Valley “provides a neutral forum for collaborative regional thinking and leadership from both the public and private sectors,” in order to provide analysis and action on issues affecting the region’s economy and quality of life like the lives of Black and Hispanic service workers.
Due to the low-wages being offered to Black and Hispanics service workers, Working Partnerships USA is calling on the major technology companies within Silicon Valley to change the current underclass environment faced these particular groups of employees.
To do this the tech companies could increase wages and offer benefits to the group of service workers that have a hand in ensuring the company runs smoothly.
“The service workers who are a critical part of the industry’s business model deserve to make a living wage and share in the wealth and prosperity of the industry, just as the engineers and coders do,” said Derecka Mehrens, the executive director of Working Partnerships USA. “These numbers represent real people: black and Hispanic workers who work hard but remain in poverty. Their jobs make this valley work. The people who protect and serve Silicon Valley’s new elite need deserve dignity in their own occupations.”
According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, nearly a third of the households located in Santa Clara County—where Silicon Valley is located—these households do not earn enough to be economically self-sufficient.
An estimated 36% of Black households and 59% of Hispanic households within Santa Clara County fall below the standard mentioned above.
In-regards to wage difference, the California Employment Development Department showed that the median wage for software developers in Santa Clara County was $63.62 an hour. When it comes to landscaping workers: $13.82 an hour, janitors: $11.39 an hour, and security guards: $14.17 an hour.
The average rent for an apartment in Santa Clara County is estimated to be $2, 321 a month, and for a full-time janitor to afford said apartment they would have to work overtime, describes Working Partnerships USA.
According to Working Partnerships USA, if a security guard service worker were given a $5 an hour pay increase it would allow for said worker to be self-sufficient.
“All workers in the tech industry from all levels deserve good jobs and the opportunity to provide for their families, said Eulogia Figueroa, a 49-year-old janitor who works on Apple‘s Cupertino, California campus and mother of two.
Now, tech companies in Silicon Valley aren’t evil per se but it demonstrates the rising issue in this country regarding the increasing cost-of-living versus low-wage climate many Americans are facing. If costs in rent and miscellaneous expenses continue to rise while work wages decline or does not move at all, things for many Americans could continue to get worse.
Sadly, the main groups of Americans feeling this burden are people who either are uneducated or are educated but do not have a higher standing degree or work jobs that are generally perceive as being “not worth the cost”. However, one group of people facing this burden are Blacks and Hispanics. In order to get more out of employees these tech companies and other companies like them should note that by increasing wages that are livable, affordable wages it doesn’t essentially hurt the company but permits for their growth due to having happier workers.