Contract workers for Google have filed for union representation in response to low pay and poor working conditions, becoming the latest in a string of high-profile efforts to address the growing wealth disparity in Silicon Valley. More than 140 warehouse and shipping workers from Palo Alto-based Google Express filed for organised representation from the Teamsters Union.

Workers for Google Express, which is operated by employment agency Adecco, are required to sign short-term employment contracts limited to two years before being let go. According to the Teamsters Union, workers have also complained about being forced to work with damaged equipment, cracked floors and fires caused by failing electrical systems.

"The reports we have received from workers at Google Express paint a bleak picture," said Teamsters Union representative Rome Aloise. "It is surprising that Google, a company that prides itself on the treatment of its workforce, would allow this behaviour to continue at Adecco."

This is not the first such incident in recent times. The Google Express workers' attempts to unionise follow similar efforts from shuttle bus drivers that transport Apple, Facebook and Yahoo employees in Silicon Valley.

Second class citizens

Disparities in wealth in Silicon Valley has been a growing issue in recent years, as the rise of major tech companies in the Bay Area of San Francisco and the influx of high-paid workers drive out middle- and low-income residents. Google Express workers have complained about the $13 to $17 (£8.32 to £10.88) an hour wages they receive with no benefits, prompting many workers to seek additional employment.

"As subcontractors, we are treated as second-class citizens," said Google Express worker Gabriel Cardenas. "We get a different type of badge and don't receive some of the most basic types of compensations, like benefits. The majority of us work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. I am standing with my co-workers and community because I believe change for this invisible workforce is possible."

In an interview earlier this month, Google human resources executive Laslo Bock stressed the importance of employees' and contractors' right to organise. In anticipation of the expected unionisation of contract workers, Bock said that Google did not plan to interfere.

"Folks have a legal right to organise without fear or retaliation," Bock said. "And that's a critical and important thing and we respect that. I mean, there would not and will not be retaliation." Google is yet to respond to a request for comment from IBTimes UK about the alleged conditions of Google Express Services workers.