Silicon Valley Needs Unions


Cheryl Brown, 510.684.6149,
Valerie Prigent, 408.571.9894,

‘$15 AND Union Rights’: Silicon Valley Needs Unions

San Jose Workers Support Nationwide Labor Day Strike; Hundreds March to Underscore Demand for Union Rights

Across 300-plus Cities, Workers Declare Unions the Best Way to Fix Economic, Political Systems Rigged to Benefit Big Corporations

San Jose, Calif. – On Labor Day, working families from Silicon Valley joined a major national day of action for the right to join together in unions. Thousands of McDonald’s and other fast-food workers went on strike in a record 400 cities, and here in Silicon Valley, nearly five hundred protested in support of the right to unionize.

Having succeeded in winning a path to $15 in California, county workers, child care workers, non-profit workers, and janitors were among those putting a focus on unions as they continue to build a movement for economic justice in San Jose and 300 cities from coast to coast.

In a video released in advance of the Labor Day strikes and protests, U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders agreed: “America needs unions,” he declared. “Unions are the only way working people have ever gotten ahead in this country. And today unions are the only shot for workers to take back the country and fight back against corporate interests that have rigged the system against them.”

It used to be that everyone did well in America — companies turned a profit and workers’ unions made sure they were paid fairly and everyone played by the same rules. However, even in Silicon Valley, this is no longer the case. Among the skyrocketing cost of living and the rise of inequality, the need for unions is more evident than ever.

“Silicon Valley has experienced a strong economic growth for the past five years, yet workers in the service industry and child care sector who are the backbone of our tech economy have not seen any of these economic gains, and have been left behind,” stated Riko Mendez, SEIU Local 521 Chief Elected Officer. “Unions are the solution to the inequality and injustice faced by many workers today in Silicon Valley.”

The day started with a strike and protest at McDonald’s in solidarity with the FightFor$15 movement, and continued with two actions at Dell and Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara, Inc. (4cs). San Jose workers and the community demanded respect for workers’ rights for a union without fear of retaliation and asked Silicon Valley employers to provide good jobs with living wages.

Dell is a large tech firm in Silicon Valley. Workers alleged that Dell is denying its responsibility to provide good jobs by hiding behind a contractor. Janitors demanded dignity and respect from Dell, and shone a light on the invisible tech — all these workers that work so hard and are the backbone of Silicon Valley, but get so little in return.
Workers at 4Cs who have been struggling to get a contract for almost two years demanded respect and a union so that they can have a voice at work, and be able to improve the services provided to the community without fear of retaliation.
Child care providers joined in support of 4Cs workers and highlighted that they also need to be able to join together in a union so that they can improve the quality of child care. Lorena Wright, a Family Child Care Provider in San Jose, explained: “As the cost of living in Silicon Valley continues to skyrocket, child care providers like me are barely making it by. We care for other people’s children, but struggle to afford healthcare, retirement or provide the basic necessities for our own children.”
Capping off a day of strikes and protests, working Americans who are part of the Fight for $15 and those who are members of the Service Employees International Union joined forces Monday to launch an unprecedented voter engagement drive aimed at unseating anti-worker politicians and electing leaders who support $15/hour minimum wage, union rights, universal health care, racial justice and immigration reform. Thousands and thousands of McDonald’s and other fast-food workers went on strike Monday in nearly 400 cities, the largest strike since the Fight for $15 began with 200 cooks and cashiers walking off their jobs in New York City in 2012.

McDonald’s workers in the United Kingdom went on strike for the first time ever Monday, demanding £10, union rights and an end to the abusive practice of zero-hour scheduling, in which workers remain on call 24/7 but are not guaranteed any hours.

The Labor Day strikes and protests cap a summer of victories for the Fight for $15 in cities across the country and come as a new Gallup poll revealed 61% of Americans approve of unions, the highest rate since 2003. Since launching on Nov. 29, 2012, the Fight for $15 has spurred wage hikes totaling more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15 an hour.

Service Employees International Union, Local 521 represents 40,000 public- and nonprofit, private-sector workers in the California’s central Bay Area region and in the Central Valley. Under a Community First vision, we are committed to making sure the needs of our community, and the vital services we provide our community, come first. We believe our communities thrive when residents, leaders, and workers recognize that we are all in this together when it comes to our safety, health, and well-being.

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