Google plans to bring on hundreds of security guards as own employees in a move that could help level the tech industry’s growing income disparity woes in Silicon Valley.
Instead of using third-party contracting services, Google will hire more than 200 security guards and give them the same benefits and perks as other Google employees, including retirement benefits, health insurance and parental leave, The Wall Street Journal reported. Google will continue using current security contractor, Security Industry Specialists, Inc., as the company transitions into building its in-house security force.
The landmark move follows several wage disputes in Silicon Valley, most notably among the tech industry’s invisible workforce — the cooks, janitors and security officers who help keep the businesses humming.
Many tech companies, including Apple, use contracting companies that provide security and cleaning services that don’t pay workers enough to live in surrounding area — even though they make up a sizable chunk of the workforce. There are upwards of 3,000 security guards working in Silicon Valley who make around $14 an hour on average.
But a family of four with two working adults needs to make at self-sufficiency standard of about $19 per hour. Additionally, those low-wage service workers are predominantly people of color, with Asian or Pacific Islanders and Latinos making up almost 60 percent of the workforce and African Americans comprising another 13 percent. Only 26 percent are white.
Tech companies have become entwined in multiple wage disputes this year. In September, hundreds of security guards protested the industry’s low-wage practices in front of Apple stores nationwide during the company’s highly anticipated launch of the iPhone 6. Amazon workers in Germany went on strike in September, demanding the online retailer pay better wages to its distribution center workers. In August, activists in San Francisco blocked tech employees from boarding commuter shuttle buses to protest gentrification, which has displaced many low wage workers.
LinkedIn recently had to pay employees almost $4 million in unpaid overtime following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation. Earlier this year, Apple and other top tech companies including Google and Adobe had to pay workers $324 million to settle a wage-fixing lawsuit. Employees sued the companies after the government discovered emails between top executives promising not to poach each other’s employees.
But Google’s decision to extend employee benefits to security guards could help mend the industry’s recent wage woes if other Silicon Valley companies follow suit. That’s what happened earlier this year when Google released its first diversity report in late May.
While the report highlighted an astonishing lack of gender and racial diversity that also plagues the tech industry overall, it started a domino effect. Soon after Google released the report, other tech companies, including Yahoo, Twitter and eBay, released their numbers along with a vow to increase diversity. If the same happens with regard to Silicon Valley’s service workers, the shift could begin to alleviate the region’s growing economic polarization between the tech industry and its surrounding communities.