In a move that could reverberate around Silicon Valley, Google plans to hire more than 200 security guards as its own employees, rather than through an outside contractor.
The guards will be eligible for the same benefits as other Googlers, including health insurance, retirement benefits, on-site medical services, leave for new parents and more.
The move comes amid rising concerns about income disparities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A think tank with ties to organized labor issued a report in August highlighting the differences in pay, benefits and working conditions between tech-company employees and service workers such as security guards, janitors and landscapers who primarily work for outside contractors.
Google's moves on social issues can be influential. Several other Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Facebook and Apple , released details on the gender and racial composition of their workforces after Google did so in June.
"Building an in-house security team is something we are excited to do," said a Google spokeswoman in a statement. "This is a process we started over a year ago and are looking forward to making these valued positions both full- and part-time Google employees."
Google said its contractor providing security guards, Security Industry Specialists, Inc., will continue to work with the search giant through a transition to a Google security staff.
SIS told The Journal the change was a business move on its part. "The decision to end this contractual relationship was made by SIS as part of its normal business operations and then conveyed to Google," said SIS Chief Financial Officer Tom Seltz in an email.
A representative of the Service Employees International Union, which has been trying to organize security guards in Silicon Valley, hailed the move.
"For years, service workers have been urging the tech giants to support good jobs that give everyone a fair shot at a better way a life," said Alfredo Fletes via email. "Google's decision is a step in the right direction." Fletes said he did not know if the union would try to organize the guards at Google.
The August think tank report found that the median hourly wage is $14 an hour for security guards in Santa Clara County – home to Google and scores of other tech companies. By contrast, the median wage for software developers is roughly $63 an hour.
Manny Cardenas, who worked as a security guard on the Google campus as a contractor, said the move was significant. "It was hard to make ends meet," Cardenas said, because he had neither a set schedule nor benefits for himself or his daughter. "Right now there's a huge gap between the rich and the poor."
Cardenas said he did not yet know if he would apply for a job at Google.
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