Shuttle bus drivers who take Facebook employees to and from Silicon Valley overwhelmingly gave the "thumbs up" to forming a union on Wednesday, after they had complained publicly for months about their low pay, split shifts and health insurance benefits.
Rome Aloise, secretary for the Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro, said the vote was 43 in favor of unionizing and 28 opposed. A total of 16 of the 87 drivers who work for Loop Transportation - the shuttle company contracted to drive Facebook employees, did not vote.
"This will now give these drivers at Facebook, and most probably the drivers for all of the companies that use this type of service a chance at a piece of the pie," Aloise said. "This makes it possible for those that make Facebook successful to get to work comfortably, safely and in a timely fashion. Hopefully the tech companies will step up and pay the "freight" so to speak"
The National Labor Board still needs to certify the election, and then bargaining can begin with Loop for a first-time contract.
In a statement, Loop CEO Jeff Leonoudakis said that the company didn't feel "our drivers' interests are best served by union representation."
But, he added: "Our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process."
Leonoudakis reiterated that the company's drivers earn between $17 and $25 an hour and get full medical benefits valued at up to $714 per month per employee. One of the drivers' complaints is over their split shifts. They pick up Facebook employees about 6 a.m. and have to take them home sometimes 14 or 15 hours later - and are only getting paid for an eight-hour shift.
Leonoudakis said that the drivers can sleep at the Loop Transportation yard, or eat for free at Facebook's campus.
Facebook officials has not formally commented on the labor strife, indicating that the fight is not with their tech company, but with a third party contractor.