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Google Let Its Engineers Strike. Will It Make Sure Its Cleaners Can Too?

The janitors and dishwashers of Silicon Valley are asking the tech companies they work for to support their right to strike.

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When Google’s highly-paid engineers walked off the job in response to the Trump administration’s immigration orders or to join the national Women’s Strike, the company made clear it supported their right to protest. Now, activist groups are calling on the tech giant to guarantee the same rights for the low-wage hourly workers that staff its cafeterias and clean its bathrooms.

A coalition of progressive Silicon Valley activist groups have asked tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Box, to promise that workers in their offices will not be disciplined for participating in a planned May 1 labor protest, and to ensure the same goes for the sub-contracted hourly staff it brings in from agencies.

More than 40 immigrant and labor rights organizations made the call in an open letter to Google on Thursday. Google, “one of the largest, most profitable technology companies in the world — and a company with thousands of cafeteria workers, janitors, security guards, shuttle drivers, [and] groundskeepers,” the letter said, “has spoken out in a unique way” during the outburst of protests that have accompanied the early days of the Trump era.

Now, “we call on Google to honor the wishes of any workers who want to participate” in protests on May 1, the signatories wrote, and “not to discipline those workers who participate.”

Google, which did not respond to a request for comment, has played a particularly active role in corporate America’s response to the Trump administration. The company joined an amicus brief against the first travel ban, and in January, more than 2,000 Google employees staged a walkout in protest of the White House’s new immigration policies. When protesters swarmed San Francisco International Airport, Google founder Sergey Brin, one of the richest people in the world, showed up and joined the demonstration.

As major companies contract out more and more building, security, and food service work, direct employees are becoming increasingly rare at the low end of the pay scale. The salaries, perks and benefits — like maternity leave — that are offered to skilled tech workers are often not extended to those laboring behind the scenes.

Braulia Delgado, who has worked as a janitor on Google’s campus for thirteen years, is one such worker who plans to protest. She told BuzzFeed News she will be staying home from work on May 1 and is encouraging her co-workers to do the same.

“Since Trump was elected, it has felt like there is a non-stop attack on immigrants,” she said. “Google and other tech companies have already taken a stand against the Trump administration’s policies. Now it’s time for them to stand with us.”


Cora Lewis is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Lewis reports on labor.

Contact Cora Lewis at cora.lewis@buzzfeed.com.

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