Wage gap grows between support staff at tech campuses and high-tech employees

September 1, 2014 by George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News

Amid the affluence of Silicon Valley's highly paid technology employees, an "invisible workforce" of low-paid support staff at the region's tech companies has emerged, making one-fifth the wages of the digital workers, according to a report released Tuesday.

Janitors, landscapers, grounds keepers, facilities cleaners and security guards working under contracts to provide support services to technology sites make about one-fifth the of , systems software employees and network engineers, the study by a San Jose, Calif.-based labor group, Working Partnerships USA, determined.

"Although the support staff goes to work each day on the same campus as the engineers and coders, their wages are worlds apart," the group's report says.

The low-paid contract employees make an average of $13 an hour - well below the $62 an hour for software and networking employees, the report found.

"This is a real problem," said Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, which tracks economic and employment issues in the Bay Area. "The high-skill tech jobs are becoming very high skill. That is really driving the wage gap. There are bidding wars for tech employees."

Although a slew of diversity reports for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley have revealed a digital workforce that is dominated by white and Asian males, the Working Partnerships report found that high tech does have a racially diverse workforce on its campuses.

"The reality is that tech already employs the services of an army of Latino, black and immigrant workers: those who clean, guard, maintain, and cook on tech campuses every day, often for poverty-level wages," according to the study.

Among computer and mathematical jobs in Santa Clara County, 88 percent offer earned sick days, and 85 percent of engineering and architecture jobs offer earned sick days, according to the report, which used Census Bureau and Labor Department official reports to compile the data. In contrast, 41 percent of building and ground cleaning jobs offer sick pay.

For every job created in Santa Clara County, four other jobs are needed to support that technology employee, the study estimated.

The comes at a time when prices for homes and apartments have soared in Silicon Valley and numerous other parts of the Bay Area.

"We are seeing rent increases throughout Silicon Valley, but we are not seeing a corresponding increase in wages," Hancock said.

Explore further: Silicon Valley boom eludes many, drives income gap


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1 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2014
The low-paid contract employees make an average of $13 an hour

Which is too much for someone to empty the trash.
not rated yet Sep 01, 2014
There are an abundance of people who can do building maintenance, etc. There are not an abundance of developers. This article is lame.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 01, 2014
This is just a very good example of the McJob phenomenon in the US, particularly in IT. Full time employees accumulate more and more benefits, like "work from home" 3 out of 5 days and abuse it dearly. Contractors are brought in to actually get something done and they have zero benefits. The "Microsoft Ruling" means they can't even talk about personnel matters with the client. Most don't have ONE day off, not xmas, not 4th of July, no sick days, nada. And on a day to day basis they do the exact same work as the McJob owners. The rest of the corporation gives a blank cheque to IT and it just keeps augmenting the cush factor. It's very much like a Victorian household. But when it comes to restrictive behavioral rules, like drinking at lunch, drug testing, etc...all the sudden the client has carte blanche on personnel issues. But you can't talk about why you never get a day off. That's a personnel issue. Talk to your contracting company.
1 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2014
They're contractors, they aren't supposed to have a paid holiday.
not rated yet Sep 02, 2014
Economists have long found those that change "light bulbs" in high wage industries (such as top banks) earn more than those that do the same work in low wage industries (such as McDonalds). No reason to think Silicon Valley is any different.

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