Google has decided to add security guards to its payroll, rather than hiring contractors, amid concerns about income disparities in Silicon Valley.
The move is likely to put new pressure on other companies in the area to also change their policies on using contract staff in functions like security guards, janitors and cooks.
"Building an in-house security team is something we are excited to do. A year ago we in-sourced the Google security operations center and we are looking forward to making these valued positions both full- and part-time Google employees," a Google spokeswoman wrote via email. The company did not respond to a query whether its policy would be extended to other contract workers.
In August, labor organization Working Partnerships USA in San Jose, California, pointed out in a report that Silicon Valley technology companies use underpaid black, Latino and immigrant workers, hired through contractors, as landscaping workers, janitors, cooks and security guards. "These 'invisible' workers do not share in the success of the industry which they daily labor to keep running," the report said.
Blacks and Latinos make up 41 percent of all private security guards in Silicon Valley, 72 percent of all janitorial and building cleaning workers, and 76 percent of all grounds maintenance workers, according to data collected by the organization for Santa Clara County, which is home to a number of key tech companies. These workers also do not get the benefits the companies typically offer their staff.
Google will be hiring about 200 staff at its northern California offices, according to news reports. The Service Employees International Union held a protest at Google headquarters in June last year, demanding it hire contractors who pay guards better and allow them to form unions. Google is now hiring both full and part-time guards, who will have all the benefits given to Google employees.
The tech industry has already been under pressure by civil rights groups, including the Rainbow Push Coalition of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, for not employing enough blacks and Latinos. The employee diversity data released by some companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook, after demands by Jackson, showed that their employees in the U.S. were predominantly white followed by Asians.
Microsoft, the latest to report, said its workforce in the U.S. as of Sept. 30 was 60.6 percent white, 28.9 percent Asian, with Hispanic/Latinos at 5.1 percent and African American/blacks at 3.5 percent.