Around 3,000 cybersecurity officials who work to protect Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Cisco in cyberspace have reportedly moved to unionise themselves. The move comes as the cost of living in Silicon Valley continues to escalate and is indicative of efforts of security experts to demand higher wages and better benefits, according to reports.
The SEIU United Service Workers West, a union that represents California workers, deemed the move the "largest private sector organising win ever in Silicon Valley", Gizmodo reported. The security officers, who are currently believed to be drafting their bargaining priorities, are not directly employed by tech giants. Instead, they work for security firms such as Allied Universal, Cypress and G4S, Securitas. These firms provide security services to other businesses on a contract basis.
Around 600 Allied Universal security experts are currently working at Facebook, while the rest work at Google, Qualcomm, Adobe and others. Most of the security personnel are paid an hourly wage of around $12-$20, which according to union officials, falls short of being enough to live comfortably in the area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
"I like my job, but it doesn't pay enough to take care of a family in the Silicon Valley," said Jiovanny Martinez, a 29-year-old Allied Universal security officer working at Facebook, who makes $18 an hour.
Google, Apple and other tech giants have, in the past, tried to recruit in-house security staff in efforts to provide a more stable environment for cybersecurity experts. However, it is uncertain as to how many in-house experts these firms currently employ. According to the SEIU, some of the 3,000 security officers also work for Google on a contract basis.
Some tech firms such as Cisco have increased wages. In November, the firm raised hourly wages for its vendors' services located in California by around $15. "Given the high cost of living in areas of California, we believe this is the right thing to do," the company said. "We want to allow our vendors to pay their employees fairly for the important work they do."
Cypress CEO Kes Narbutas said the firm has signed a memorandum of understanding, stating they would not interfere with employees working at Silicon Valley firms opting to organise.
"We're a responsible employer and responsible company," Narbutas said. "We have had good relationships with SEIU for many years, and we kind of recognized that they can be effective in terms of representing our employees."
Allied Universal said it is the employees' "legal right to choose to be part of a union". G4S and Securitas are yet to comment on the matter.