Google‘s Mountain View campus is a sprawling checkerboard of manicured lawns and fountains around a cluster of sleek, blocky buildings. A small fleet of yellow and green bikes provides employees with an easy form of transportation along the winding streets and paths, and many of them lay scattered in various corners of theGoogleplex. Buses pull in each day, squiring employees from their high-priced apartments in San Francisco. During lunch breaks people take yoga classes, enjoy concierge services, drink artisanal coffees, and wander around wearing the latest line of Google Glasswear. A squadron of part-time security guards forms a human moat around the buildings, protecting the machinery inside.
It’s that latter group that Samuel Kehinde worries about whenever he visits Google. A tall, lankyNigerian with a seemingly indefatigable work ethic — his cellphone rings nonstop on the drive from Oakland to Mountain View, and he always answers — Kehinde worked as a security guard himself after immigrating to the U.S. in 2003, and spent two years guarding food stalls at the Public Market in Emeryville. “We did not have a union, so we had no benefits, no vacation, and I only made $9 an hour,” Kehinde says, citing the host of factors that led him to join the Service Employees International Union. After successfully unionizing his peers at the Public Market, he quit to work for the SEIU full time.
Now Kehinde coordinates various security worker campaigns for the SEIU, many of which have proved successful. Thus far, 13 companies have joined in San Francisco and the East Bay, including AlliedBarton, which serves Alta BatesSummit and the Southland Mall, and ABM, which serves Twitter‘s headquarters in San Francisco. Kehinde helped negotiate contracts at Kaiser hospital and at Oracle‘s Pleasantoncampus.
But he and other SEIU representatives haven’t gotten any Silicon Valley companies to sign on, yet. So while Securitas Security Services has several union sites in the East Bay and San Francisco, its guards at Facebook aren’t unionized. The same goes for Andrews International, which contracts with Oracle. Guards at the Pleasanton campus have union representation; their counterparts at the company’s Redwood Cityheadquarters do not.