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Facebook bus drivers looking to unionize

Facebook bus drivers looking to unionize
Facebook's main campus in Menlo Park, Calif. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

Drivers who whisk Facebook employees off to the company's Silicon Valley headquarters each morning in Wi-Fi-equipped buses are looking to unionize, complaining of long hours, split shifts and wages so low they can't buy homes near their jobs.

And they're asking the social media giant for help.

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In a letter last week to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, an official with the Teamsters says that a majority of the bus drivers who transport Facebook employees have asked the union to represent them and that he's writing on their behalf. The drivers work for Loop Transportation, a San Francisco-based company that contracts with Facebook.

"While your employees earn extraordinary wages and are able to live and enjoy life in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Bay Area, these drivers can't afford to support a family, send their children to school, or least of all, afford to even dream of buying a house anywhere near where they work," wrote Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 853.

Aloise says Facebook and other tech companies are partially to blame for the working conditions with third-party contractors and should encourage them to change their ways.

"These dot-com companies throw money around like water, but the people who are bringing these people to work have to suffer," Aloise told The Times Monday. "They're the key to making sure these workers have a decent job."

Facebook declined to comment.

Aloise said the drivers have to endure cumbersome split shifts, getting up early in the morning to drive employees from San Francisco and other cities to the company's Menlo Park campus, and having to wait around as long as seven hours, unpaid, before taking the workers back home.

Jeff Leonoudakis, president of Loop Transportation, did not return calls seeking comment, but he told the New York Times that his company has set up a lounge for drivers equipped with recliners and a big-screen TV. Leonoudakis also said the company is putting in bunk beds so drivers can rest during their long breaks between shifts.

"We believe that we take really good care of our drivers," he told the newspaper.

The Facebook buses, along with ones that transport Google and Apple employees, have been a source of controversy in the debate over gentrification. Activists, saying that the presence of tech workers is pushing out poorer residents, have on occasion blocked the buses from leaving stops in San Francisco and Oakland.

Aloise said that about 45 drivers work for Loop providing bus shuttle service for Facebook employees, and that a "vast majority" of them had signed authorization cards asking the union to represent them.

The Teamsters asked Loop Transportation officials to recognize the union but have not heard back. Aloise says the union will continue to pressure Facebook officials and may ask for an official election to organize the drivers.

"They're not going to be able to stay quiet on this as much as they want to," Aloise said.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc

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