With no passengers to transport, Silicon Valley's tech bus drivers are being paid to stay home. But it's unclear how long Google, Apple and Facebook will keep them on for the ride. (GOOG, GOOGL)
Shuttle drivers for Google, Apple, Facebook and more are being paid to stay home, but as contractors don't get a direct line to these tech companies, they're now relying on their employers and unions to fight for their wages. 'Sometimes we don't get a straight answer from our company': Drivers are worried that payments might stop if they're made to work from home into May and beyond. Tesla has flat-out refused to pay for its contracted drivers. For smaller tech companies, the future is even less certain. Are you a contract worker for a tech company? Contact this reporter using encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 628-228-1836) or email (email@example.com). Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
When Silicon Valley's army of techies work from home, so must the bus drivers who ferry them to their offices each day. But unlike the employees they transport, these drivers face a bumpy and uncertain road ahead. In more normal times the famous, and controversial, tech shuttles – a common sighting on the roads of the San Francisco Bay Area – play a vital role in keeping the Silicon Valley machine whirring. According to the most recent data from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, there are just over 1,000 shuttle buses criss-crossing the Bay Area every day. But right now the shuttles are nowhere to be seen. Instead they sit idly in depots and will likely do so for weeks, if not months, to come. As for the people who usually drive them, the future is a big unknown. Tech companies usually contract their drivers through companies such as WeDriveU and Hallcon – two popular bus services in the San Francisco Bay Area. As of right now, most of the tech companies have agreed to cover 100% of the compensation these drivers would normally be making through April. Tesla is the notable exception, having flat-out refused to cover any drivers' compensation. But after April, things become less clear, and drivers say the anxiety is compounded by the fact they don't have a direct line to the tech companies they drive for. Instead, they have to wait and hope their contractors can negotiate a continued income while they're made to stay home. "We all know these tech companies have money to pay us if they want to, but who knows how long this will last?" said one driver who regularly ferries Facebook employees to its Menlo Park, Calif. campus, and asked not to be identified. "Sometimes we don't get a straight answer from our company because it seems they are at the will of Facebook's needs and wants. Any issues we have, we try to bring up with the union." Teamsters Union represents many tech shuttle drivers in the Bay Area including Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook. Google is the only major exception. The union says that the average wage for a tech company shuttle driver in the Bay Area is $30 an hour, and in many cases a smaller percentage is also paid for the hours in the day between commutes when drivers aren't on the road. This amount is still being covered during the pandemic, but the union says it's a detail that must be negotiated as the weeks go on and isn't guaranteed. "The company we've had the most trouble with is Apple," Stacy Murphy, business representative for the Teamsters 853 division, told Business Insider. The union says that Apple, which contracts its drivers in the Bay Area through Hallcon, agreed to pay drivers but was much slower than other companies to iron out the details, leading some of ther drivers to file for unemployment in the meantime for fear their wages wouldn't be covered. The union says that last Friday Apple agreed to expedite payments for the time drivers had spent at home so far, and that it had agreed to pay drivers through at least May 4. "We're working with all of our suppliers to ensure hourly workers such as janitorial staff are being paid during this difficult time," an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider. Google has agreed to pay its contracted workforce, including drivers, and will continue to do so through April, it told Business Insider. Meanwhile Amazon said its drivers will be paid for as long as they are made to work from home. "We continue to pay all hourly employees that support our offices around the world – from administrative functions to shuttle bus drivers to janitorial staff – during the time our employees who are able to work from home do so," said a spokesperson. "The outlook is very sad" As the biggest tech companies have continued to expand, so has their desire to use contractors and vendors. But these workers don't enjoy the same benefits and privileges of full-time employees. The bus drivers of Silicon Valley have spent more time in the spotlight than most tech contract workers, notably in 2013 and 2014 when they were the subject of protests against the continued gentrification of the San Francisco Bay Area. As a result, the city brought in more regulation of the shuttles.
But this pandemic poses a much greater threat to job security, and if it keeps people working from home for much longer, drivers are concerned that they may lose their jobs. As a result they're relying on the unions to keep fighting for them. "I've wondered about my subcontracting company that works with Google," said one driver for Google who also spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity. For these drivers, it's imperative that tech companies keep paying them – if the tech companies decided to stop paying, the bus companies that employ them are unlikely to cough up. "They have offered nothing to their drivers," the Google driver said of his subcontracting company. Some of the WeDriveU shuttle drivers said they were being given safety and procedural online training courses to complete at home, with deadlines, assigned by the company. Some higher-ranking employees such as supervisors are also still being paid to "get the basics in operation" ready for work to resume after the pandemic, as one described. "The outlook is very sad," said one driver who usually runs the Apple campus route to Cupertino. "We are getting training courses online, and I am getting to spend more time with my kids. But they are getting bored ... I can only hope for the best." These drivers are relying on Silicon Valley to keep supporting them. As soon as it stops, they will have to look for work elsewhere, or file for unemployment. "The future feels unpredictable, but for now my feet are flat on the ground," said another driver who usually transports Google employees on their 80-minute drive to the Mountain View campus in Calfornia. "It's a strange adjustment." More concerning still are the smaller tech companies, which unions are worried may not pay beyond the middle of April, potentially leaving many drivers unemployed. "Every day something changes," said Teamsters' Stacy Murphy. "We know the money's there but we're not taking it for granted. We're appreciative of any client that has stepped up." Are you a contract worker for a tech company? Contact this reporter using encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 628-228-1836) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).SEE ALSO: Google is fighting COVID-19 by monitoring location data in 131 countries. It's a reminder of how much info Google has about us and how easily the pandemic could blow up privacy. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A cleaning expert reveals her 3-step method for cleaning your entire home quickly
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As remote work transforms Silicon Valley, moving companies are making a fortune helping tech workers flee to smaller towns and putting their startups' office furniture into storage
Business for moving companies in the San Francisco Bay Area is booming. Services are in...Business for moving companies in the San Francisco Bay Area is booming. Services are in high demand as tech workers leave the region now that they can work remotely because of COVID-19. The shift illustrates how the pandemic will reshape Silicon Valley for years to come. Entire companies are ditching their offices and moving their furniture into storage as they pivot to remote-first business models. As the pandemic rages on, increasing numbers of tech workers are ditching Silicon Valley. It has major consequences for the region's future — and is great news for the businesses hauling their belongings. In interviews with Business Insider, people working in the moving industry in the San Francisco Bay Area said that business is booming, with remarkable numbers of people turning their backs on the region and moving away over the last few weeks and months, despite the added logistical difficulties created by the pandemic. Their comments add to the growing pile of evidence that COVID-19 and the associated wave of remote work will radically reshape Silicon Valley, the heart of America's tech industry, for years to come — including impacting the region's sky-high residential and commercial real estate prices. "Business has been ridiculously busy," said Kevin Twibill, the founder of San Francisco-based Corrib Moving and Storage. "We're turning away work because we don't have more employees." Moves associated with sales of family homes are down, he said. but there has been a major uptick in moves from apartments and shared properties. "Most of them move home, from where they were ... instead of paying $2,000 for their 20-square-foot apartment downtown, they're moving back home." Jim Morris of Oakland-based Sweet Lemon Moving Services agreed. "There's a lot more people moving out ... it's significant enough that it's easy to notice."Many are moving out to more scenic, less urban areas, he added: "We see a lot more movement out to the Central Valley and the foothills and Lake Tahoe region," as well as Santa Cruz and Napa. The tech industry has long had a troubled relationship with the Bay Area. The region is beset by issues — and the industry contributes to many of them — including a high cost of living, a major housing crisis, and terrible traffic. Now that its offices, shops, bars, and other amenities are off limits because of the pandemic, some tech workers say they have no reason to stay and are considering leaving the region, and some real-estate professionals in rival regions have said they've seen an uptick in interest. The pandemic has forced companies around the world to move abruptly to an entirely remote workforce, and some high-profile San Francisco-headquartered tech companies — notably Twitter and the bitcoin startup Coinbase — have since announced they will allow most employees to work remotely after lockdowns end. Facebook expects half of its workforce to be remote in 10 years. In a recent poll of thousands of Bay Area tech workers, two-thirds said they'd consider leaving if they could permanently work remotely, with a third saying they'd think about going even if they had to take a pay cut in order to do so. Unprecedented numbers of people are also sticking their stuff in storage as they consider their futures. "As a company we [always] kind of book up to full capacity, but one thing I can say is I've moved a lot more storage jobs where people are putting their stuff into storage," said Alex Parocha, the San Francisco manager for Massachussetts-headquartered moving company Gentle Giants Moving Company. Twibill has seen similar: his firm has "storage coming in every single day," when it's "normally once or twice a week." The majority of traffic is going in one direction: out of the Bay Area. Parocha says he's "seen more jobs going out of the Bay versus coming into the Bay" in recent times, with the ratio skewed more heavily to people leaving than normal. San Mateo-based The One Move, meanwhile, said that while their overall business hasn't increased, destinations are changing, said one co-owner. "We're seeing about the same activity level as last June ... but seeing more of people move out of the Bay Area or out of state." (There are of course still some folks moving to the Bay Area: "Yeah we've had some, wouldn't say it's a lot," said Parocha.) Entire businesses are also turning their backs on the region. Twibill said he was getting far more calls than normal from startups asking them to pack up their offices. And that many of them are getting their furniture put into storage rather than relocated to a new office space, an unusual move for a business that indicates they may be foregoing having a physical presence entirely for the indefinite future: "They're just giving up their offices." Many companies who want their offices packed up aren't even bothering to return to supervise the move, Morris said. "[They're] not meeting us there, just giving us diagrams and so forth." Got a tip? Contact Business Insider reporter Rob Price via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1 650-636-6268), encrypted email (email@example.com), standard email (firstname.lastname@example.org), Telegram/Wickr/WeChat (robaeprice), or Twitter DM (@robaeprice). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by standard email only, please.SEE ALSO: Mark Zuckerberg's product boss left Facebook a year ago over 'artistic differences.' Now that Chris Cox is back, the key question is whose vision won? Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
Apple CEO Tim Cook tells office employees to work from home as the company plans to reduce 'human density' in stores amid coronavirus outbreak
In a memo sent to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook urged some of the company's global...In a memo sent to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook urged some of the company's global office employees to work remotely this week amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. While the policy is only applicable to workers at Apple's offices, the company has also instituted new efforts to limit "human density" at its retail locations. Apple's decision to allow employees to work remotely mirrors decisions made by other tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Alphabet. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Apple CEO Tim Cook told office employees across the world can work from home as COVID-19, becoming the latest major tech company to allow remote work. In a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg News, Cook offered employees at its global offices the opportunity to work from home for the upcoming week of March 9 to 13 "if your job allows." As Business Insider reported Friday, a source familiar with the matter said employees in Santa Clara Valley — the location of Apple's Cupertino headquarters, in the San Francisco Bay Area — had already been recommended to work from home. In the memo, Cook also said the company was working to reduce "human density and ensure those teams that are on-site can do their work safely and with peace of mind," Bloomberg reported. While the work-from-home option does not apply to workers at Apple's more than 500 global retail stores, the company said it would work to reduce the number of people in stores for Genius Bar appointments and at classes offered by the Cupertino, California-based company at its worldwide retail locations. The company previously enacted new measures in US stores meant to limit any spread of the virus such as the increased wipe-down of demo units, installing hand sanitizing stations, and increasing the number of cleaning staff at the stores. Apple in February temporarily shuttered its China retail locations to help limit the spread of the virus, though most locations have since re-opened. The work from home memo specifically applies to Apple employees in Santa Clara Valley and Elk Grove areas in California, Seattle, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the UK, Bloomberg reported. Apple has repeatedly advised employees who feel sick to remain home from work and encouraged virtual meetings over those that require travel, according to a previous Business Insider report. It also encouraged employees to regularly wash their hands and avoid touching their faces. According to Bloomberg News, Cook said employees would continue to receive their usual pay while working from home. The new directive comes amid reports that Apple's supply chain has taken a hit amid the coronavirus outbreak. The virus has had a major impact on the production of the iPhone, which is not expected to improve until at least the second quarter of 2020. Other companies like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet have all announced similar policies, restricting travel and directing employees in some of their global offices to work from home. COVID-19 has infected more than 106,000 people and killed 3,600 others, mostly in China, though the disease is spreading globally. So far, at least 21 people have died in the US as a result while hundreds of cases have been confirmed. Cook called the virus "unprecedented event" and a "challenging moment," Bloomberg said. Read more: A seafood salesman accused of smuggling $7 million worth of endangered baby eels has been sentenced How coronavirus is upending corporate America Costco says coronavirus fears gave it a sales boost and stirred up 'crazy' demand Parents are struggling to cope as coronavirus worries shut down schools, leaving kids scared and confusedJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Jeff Bezos reportedly just spent $165 million on a Beverly Hills estate — here are all the ways the world's richest man makes and spends his money
A new poll shows that workers at companies like Amazon, Microsoft, or Google haven't seen their productivity suffer as they work from home amid the spread of coronavirus
The Seattle area is on high alert over the coronavirus and the large tech companies located...The Seattle area is on high alert over the coronavirus and the large tech companies located there have asked their employees to work from home. As many as 80% of the tech employees who participated in a poll on anonymous chat app Blind said they were currently working from home. And in another poll, 60% said their productivity wasn't being impacted thanks to the virus. But there are concerning signs that the worst is yet to come in the workplace. For instance, people of Asian descent are at increased risk for being stigmatized. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Over 2,000 tech workers polled by anonymous chat app Blind indicate widespread concern about catching the coronavirus from their workplaces. The poll consisted of 2,068 people who work at Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Expedia, LinkedIn or Uber. Blind does not collect the identities of workers but it does verify that they have corporate email addresses at whichever employer they claim. Over 80% of respondents who worked at Microsoft, Expedia and LinkedIn said they were working from home thanks to the outbreak of the coronovirus. At 76%, almost as many Amazon workers in this poll said the same. And a large number of workers polled from companies headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area are working from home, too: 58% of Uber employees polled; 55% of Facebook employees, and 34% of Google employees. Amazon and Facebook have each confirmed a case of the virus in Seattle. They have shut down certain office locations, GeekWire reported, and advised employees in the region area to work from home. Microsoft has not confirmed cases as of yet but has told employees in Seattle and San Francisco to work from home in accordance with guidance from King County health officials, where Microsoft is located. Kings County has confirmed 31 cases of the virus and nine deaths, most of them residents from the LifeCare nursing home. The majority of tech workers polled said they were fairly satisfied with the measures their companies are taking to keep them safe. The two least satisfied groups, based on this limited poll of a tiny fraction of their workforces, worked at Google and Uber, at 41% and 50% respectively. Google and Uber were not immediately available for comment, but Google has now asked all employees in Washington state to work from home, as well. In another poll of just under 6,000 people on Blind, not restricted to specific tech companies, about 70% said that the coronavirus made them very or somewhat hesitant to go into their offices to work and their fear of working in an office is rising. No harm to productivity The biggest bright spot: given the work-from-home instructions, limits on travel and cancellations of major tech conferences, about 60% of those nearly 6,000 polled said that the virus has not significantly impacted their productivity. We'll see if that feeling holds. The work-from-home mandate in Seattle will continue until March 25 for Microsoft and March 31 for other offices. LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft but based in the Bay Area, has also told its employees to work from home. As of March 5, San Francisco's health department was reporting two confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Should that number rise, it is likely that more companies in the Bay Area will ask their employees to work from home as well. In fact, one well-known VC, Sequoia, wrote a memo today warning all startup founders that the virus could wreak havoc on their own employees' productivity, particularly sales and marketing, and that they should brace for tough times ahead. But perhaps the most concerning part is a third poll, taken by 7,311 respondents, about witnessing backlash to employees of Chinese in the wake of the coronavirus: 11% of respondents said they had witnessed such behavior. The CDC was so concerned about people of Asian descent being stigmatized by the illness that it issued a warning about it. The glass-half full view shows that 88% have not witnessed such behavior, but this data suggests that companies, employees as well as friends and mental health professionals would benefit from increased awareness. Are you an insider at Amazon, Google or Microsoft insider with insight to share? Contact Julie Bort at email@example.com or on encrypted chat app Signal at (970) 430-6112 (no PR inquiries, please). Open DMs on Twitter @Julie188. Now read: A startup CEO who relies on factories in China says his business won't be hurt by the coronavirus. Here's how he navigated the crisis. A false rumor about an Austin tech worker with coronavirus keeps spreading, and it shows a big challenge facing modern companies when information moves at viral speed. The remarkable lawsuit pitting Oracle against its own board members now suggests Larry Ellison should give back $1.6 billion for the 2016 NetSuite acquisition Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: People are still debating the pink or grey sneaker, 2 years after it went viral. Here's the real color explained.