Google Express workers join union

Bay Area workers who pack and ship goods for Google Express voted to unionize on Friday afternoon, the latest win by labor activists promising to lift the wages and conditions of Silicon Valley’s contract workforce.

The 151 workers employed by Google contractor Adecco will be joining the Teamsters Local 853, the same union that has organized shuttle bus drivers who ferry tech workers to and from their jobs at Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga and Genentech.

“We need livable wages, a strong middle class, buying power, a strong economy,” said 26-year-old Google Express shift coordinator Gabriel Cardenas, of San Jose, in an interview after the Friday vote. “People who work in Silicon Valley deserve to be able to live here.”

Cardenas and other workers for Google’s same-day delivery service called up the Teamsters a few months ago complaining of low wages and poor conditions at their Palo Alto warehouse, including lack of ventilation, damaged equipment, cracked floors and a failing electrical system.

“The floor was so tilted it looked like the Winchester Mystery House,” said hub operator Bob Kerrigan, also of San Jose. A light bulb caused a fire a few months ago, and “they told us to keep working in the dark,” he said.

“It’s surprising that workers who warehouse and ship for Google Express would be subjected to such Third World conditions,” said Rome Aloise, International Vice President and principal officer of Local 853, in a statement Friday.

Google declined comment. Adecco said it would review the results of the majority unionization vote.

“We believe that our associates are better off directly dealing with us as their employer rather than involving a union, however, we are supportive of any direction freely chosen by our associates,” said Adecco spokeswoman Vannessa Almeida Adamo. “Over the coming days, we’ll be reviewing the results to determine that all steps and processes were followed to ensure the election campaign was held in a lawful manner.”

Google’s service relies on several different vendors, each handling different tasks. Online shoppers use Google’s website to buy items sold at retail stores such as Target or Costco. Those parcels are then trucked into the warehouse in an industrial district of Palo Alto, just across Highway 101 from Google’s corporate campus in Mountain View.

Thousands of parcels — from containers of spring water to more expensive items — cycle each day through the facility’s three bay doors. “We alert trucks, put the products onto racks, set up routes, pick routes and basically send them out,” Cardenas said.

A different group of courier workers then transports the parcels to homes. The service operates in parts of the Bay Area and a select group of other metropolitan regions such as Los Angeles and Boston, competing with a growing number of same-day and overnight delivery options by e-commerce giants such as Amazon and newer startups.

Re/code reported earlier this week that Google Express plans to down its two delivery hubs in Mountain View and San Francisco, a possible contraction of the service, but Aloise said the Palo Alto warehouse — just across the border from Mountain View — is expected to remain open.

Among the alternatives that Google has considered, according to Re/code, is outsourcing delivery to on-demand startups such as Postmates or Flywheel.

“Workers are standing up for their rights in Silicon Valley and Google should step up and be a leader and not shut down the hub,” Cardenas said.

Above: Google Shopping Express driver Ashley Beach drove away with packages of merchandise to be delivered from Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World in Palo Alto, Calif. on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. Google at the time had about about 50 delivery cars on the streets, but has since expanded. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

 

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  • hoapres

    Too bad Google software engineers don’t join a union.

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