Silicon Valley labor, religion, community call for “disrupting inequality”

SANTA CLARA — Pope Francis is traveling the world to bring his message on income inequality, workers’ rights, migrant rights and overall economic justice. On September 22, community, faith and labor groups in Santa Clara, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, honored Pope Francis’s arrival to the United States with a call to “disrupt inequality.”

Silicon Valley Rising (SVR), UNITE HERE and SEIU-USWW came together to demonstrate their support for the workers at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and Citrix who are fighting for quality jobs and fair treatment at the workplace. This Hyatt was chosen as the venue for the rally to support workers there who have been fighting for seven years for a fair process to organize. Although many Hyatts across the country have signed contracts with UNITE HERE, and many Santa Clara Hyatt workers have signed cards asking to be represented by the union, the management continues to refuse to refrain from intimidating workers wanting to unionize.

The rally also targeted the treatment of support workers by the hugely profitable tech giants that dominate the local economy. Citrix, for example, contracts their security officers from Universal Protection Service (UPS). UPS is one of the largest security contractors in the country, yet they provide low-paying, part-time jobs that make economic instability a daily concern for their workers.

“It is shameful that multi-million dollar companies like Hyatt and UPS pay their employees poverty wages and deny them a voice on the job,” said Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. “Income inequality is a serious and growing problem for families in Silicon Valley, and the action by Silicon Valley Rising, UNITE HERE and SEIU-USWW shows hardworking individuals that we will continue to fight on their behalf for economic justice.”

“UPS continues to move me from site to site. Because my pay fluctuates between $12 and $15 an hour, I have trouble paying rent from month to month. My children and I are currently sharing one bedroom in an apartment with another family,” said Anai Garcia, security officer with Universal Protection Service (UPS).

“Suppressing workers’ voices disproportionately hurts Latinos, African Americans and women, most of whom make up the security guards, janitors and food service workers being denied their fundamental workplace rights,” said Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA. “Further marginalizing these groups creates a larger rift in the vast economic segregation these workers face.”

“The faith community takes its role in the fight against income inequality seriously. As people of faith, we are morally obligated to help those who are vulnerable, oppressed and voiceless,” said Father Jon Pedigo, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe church in the predominantly Latino east side of San José. “Hyatt and UPS should consider the impact that such low wages have on their workers’ families. It is unconscionable to deny those families just compensation.”

Silicon Valley Rising is a coalition of faith, labor, and community leaders, led by the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA, which has made corporate responsibility a priority. SVR and its partners have been at the forefront of highlighting this issue, gaining support from both the public and elected officials.

Photo: Virgil Lewis/PW




Henry Millstein
Henry Millstein

Hank Millstein is a long-time peace and labor activist. He's a fiction writer and journalist and a member of the National Writers Union.