Silicon Valley Employees Treated Like “Second-Class Citizens”

By Ross Lenihan

Silicon Valley tech companies frequently use contracting services for restaurant and janitorial services. Unfortunately, those workers are often paid little compared to the local cost of living, and thus have to commute long distances. Even worse? These subcontractors are frequently denied the basic perks of working at the country’s wealthiest tech businesses.

An example of how this works is at Intel. The Guardian reports that, “highly paid engineers and developers directly employed by the computer chip company wear blue identification badges,” while “janitors, electricians, gardeners, security guards and cafeteria workers employed by various subcontractors wear green badges.” Blue badges get free coffee, soda, and fruit, while green badges have to pay.

Nahima Aguiniga, 34, a cashier and dishwasher at a cafe on the Intel campus, sums it up thusly: “The way they treat green badges, it’s like we’re second-class citizens.” Aguiniga is a single mother of two earning $13.50 per hour in an area with such a high cost of living that she can’t even afford an apartment near where she works.

Thankfully, UNITE Here is working to have Intel’s cafeteria contractor Guckenheimer recognize workers’ wish to organize a union at company headquarters. Here’s to hoping that push is successful!

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