Will Apple’s wage increase for drivers close the gap between the haves and the have-nots?

Amidst all the talk about how nobody needs unions anymore comes what many would say is a major union victory.

Earlier this month, Apple announced it will be initiating major improvements to the wage and benefits programs of its 150 commuter drivers (i.e., the drivers who shuttle Apple employees back and forth to work). The drivers had already agreed to be represented by the Teamsters Union.


It seems that even Apple, an industry giant by any standards, is beginning to realize that if they’re not paying their workers, someone else will.

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According to Digits, which covers tech news and analysis for the Wall Street Journal, wage and benefit improvements include a “25 percent increase in hourly wages, premium pay for coach and shuttle drivers who work split shifts, and improving the driver break and rest areas.”

“Silicon Valley is becoming a different place…”

Google made headlines last Spring after releasing its diversity statistics confirming what most already knew or had at least suspected: women and non-whites are woefully underrepresented in both tech and leadership positions. On the company’s official blog, Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President, People Operations admitted Google is “miles from where we want to be …”

Google’s move prompted leaders at Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, and Apple to follow suit. When it was all said and done, however, there was still plenty to complain about.

And now service workers have added their voices to the din.

According to Digits, a report from the Joint Venture Silicon Valley declared “The middle class is disappearing, and the service sector is stuck there with no growth. Silicon Valley is becoming a different place, a place of haves and have-nots, and there are signs of unrest.”

Could wage and benefits improvements for its drivers be one step Apple is taking to stave off the coming storm?

Or could it be that Apple, like most other employers—57 percent, according to PayScale’s 2015 Compensation Best Practices Report (CBPR)—is simply concerned about employee retention?

Just last month, news broke that Apple would be hiring full-time employees to secure its Cupertino, California headquarters. Previously, security positions were filled via a contractor. An Apple spokesperson told newspaper 9to5Mac that “it will be working with the existing contractor … to transition employees to officially work for Apple .” A few months later, Google made a similar decision.

A step in the right direction, but will it be enough?

An article in the Mac Observer claimed this increase “will make the bus drivers who shuttle Apple employees among the best paid in the area.” Will it be enough?

In “Silicon Valley Interns Make a Service Worker’s Yearly Salary in Three Months,” author Samantha Allen paints an unflattering picture of the situation and describes a letter written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by the Vice President of the local Teamsters likening Facebook employees to “nobleman” and the drivers to “the servants… who carry them back and forth each day.”

A partial solution to a larger problem?

In some sense, this latest decision of Apple’s has an air of inevitability. Talks about the necessity of raising the federal minimum wage have raged for the past several years now. PayScale’s 2014 CBPR noted that 40 percent of companies were in favor of raising the minimum to $10.10 an hour, and according to the 2015 CBPR, nearly 21 percent of employers expect to increase the minimum wage as part of their compensation strategy for 2015.

Although the average Apple driver makes more than the federal minimum, it’s not hard to see the parallels between this current debate and debates about CEO pay and income inequality in general.

Where it will all end is anybody’s guess, but for now service workers can at least bask in their latest win.

Want to make sure you’re paying your employees fairly? Download PayScale’s 2015 Compensation Best Practices Report.


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