Silicon Valley started to smell a little extra-ripe today, and not just because a week of record-high temperatures has soured the trash receptacles.
Rather, it is because, beginning May 20, up to 400 janitors walked off their jobs cleaning the offices at some of the region's best-known tech companies, including Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Cisco Systems, with the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 pressing the labor action.
The union, which represents some 6,000 janitors in the Silicon Valley and the East Bay, says its complaint is twofold: that workers' families have to wait too long to be eligible for health care and that their wages are much too low.
Though Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest regions in the country, the janitors say that at an average of $11.04 per hour, they make less than half of what their counterparts do in other major cities. (According to MarketWatch, New York janitors earn $20.25 per hour, San Francisco janitors earn $17.05 and Chicago janitors earn $14.20.)
Even the Communication Workers of America union has pledged support, saying that its members will not service the targeted companies' data lines and cable services while the strike is on.
The janitors in SEIU don't work directly for the tech companies, but rather for companies that provide janitorial services on an outsourced basis. Nevertheless, it is the tech companies that will be stuck in the--rankly perfumed--middle.
"We are continuing to monitor the situation and we have been in dialogue with the union to make sure they understand our position," said Charles Mulloy, a spokesperson for Intel. "But at the end of the day this is a dispute between the union and the suppliers."