Tech companies take action on coronavirus

March 7, 2020

Paid sick leave and affordable healthcare are basic human rights, and they are essential to protecting public health as we grapple with the coronavirus.

Yesterday, major tech corporations including Facebook, Twitter, Cisco, Microsoft, and Google committed that hourly and subcontracted service workers who need to stay home will be fully paid during coronavirus disruptions.

This is a positive step by leading tech companies — particularly Facebook, which worked together with its unions on response plans — to protect the health and economic security of the people who keep their campuses running.

Paid time off is vital for the thousands of cafeteria workers, janitors, security officers, and shuttle drivers who rely on each paycheck to make rent and care for their families. Yesterday's announcements come after we last week called on the tech sector to fully include subcontracted and gig workers in Coronavirus response plans.

Now it’s time for the rest of the tech industry to follow suit. According to a UC Santa Cruz study in 2016, there are an estimated 77,000 potential subcontracted workers in Silicon Valley, many of whom do not have affordable healthcare or paid leave. The threat of tens of thousands of low-wage, Latinx and African-American workers losing their jobs due to this crisis would have devastating consequences for our economy, our communities, and public health.

People working for gig corporations are especially at risk. Uber and Lyft drivers, Instacart shoppers, Doordash delivery drivers, and other gig workers are sitting in cars with passengers, delivering food to people’s front doors, and handing off packages. Under recently passed legislation in California, gig companies are supposed to provide their workers with paid sick days, but the corporations have so far refused.

In the weeks to come, the tech industry needs to continue engaging with unions and workers organizations to proactively address this crisis. We urge other tech companies to take the same approach as Facebook, which developed response plans in collaboration with the unions that represent service workers at its campus.

This situation underscores the critical role unions play in tackling systemic inequalities that put us all at risk in situations like this. Service workers who have organized at tech campuses have won full-family healthcare, sick leave, higher wages, and a structure for working with employers to address collective issues — all important measures for limiting the impact of the Coronavirus on our health, our local economy, and our working families.