MENLO PARK, Calif. - Five hundred cafeteria workers at Facebook voted Monday to join a union. It's part of a growing movement across Silicon Valley among low-wage workers to get higher pay and benefits.
A coalition of faith, labor, and community organizations started this campaign three years ago called Silicon Valley Rising. They're just past the halfway point in organizing 10,000 workers and they say wages and benefits are improving.
The numbers keep growing -- 500 cafeteria workers at Facebook join nearly 5,000 others who have organized and voted to unionize in the past three years.
Jacky Espinoza says the process is empowering. She has worked as a barista at Cisco for three years. She and her coworkers organized last fall.
"Like, once the union did come in, we did have a voice," she said. "Our managers were hearing us, everything that we had to say, so that was really cool."
Photos show a number of organizing rallies since Silicon Valley Rising started its campaign three years ago. In that time, it has paved the way for 3,000 security officers to join United Service Workers West and 1,000 shuttle drivers to become teamsters.
Almost 1,000 cafeteria workers are now members of Unite Here Local 19. They're getting health coverage along with an average raise of $3 an hour from $12 to $17.48, plus sabbaticals for workers.
"It's largely because income inequality in Silicon Valley has gotten so extreme that the workers very clearly see their interests in getting together and organizing in order to get better wages and benefits," said Ben Field with the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.
Espinoza, the Cisco barista, continues to live with her family. They pool their wages to pay rent and to buy food. But some of her coworkers work two or three jobs to raise their children.
But Silicon Valley Rising Campaign Director Maria Noel Fernandez believes the unionization of Silicon Valley is going to improve the workers' quality of life.
"Our hope is that these workers can be able to go home to their families in the afternoon," she said. "That they can do homework with their daughters and sons, that they can go to baseball practice and everything."