While working as security guard at Google's Mountain View headquarters, 24-year-old Cardenas said he had to move back in with his mother and enroll his daughter in MediCal because his pay amounted to $1,000 a month at most, and he received no health benefits.
He says Google's security guard contractor, Security Industry Specialists, doesn't provide a set number of work hours every week to its security guards at Google, which meant he's worked as little as one day a week some weeks. Even though he's paid $16 an hour, his monthly pay at its peak was less than what a full time job at minimum wage provides.
Not all of Google's security guards are treated this way, but according to Service Employees International Union, a survey found that 80 percent of the contract security guards were only offered part time work, and similar problems have been found for security guards employed by Apple. Just a few years ago, under a different contractor, this wasn't the case for Google's security guards, the union says.
At a rally at Google headquarters Thursday, June 6, union members called on Google to take some responsibility for the situation, recalling that in 2004 and 2008 Google had responded to similar pressure to fairly compensate its janitors, who are now unionized.
"In the past they did what's right, I'm confident they'll do what's right again," San Jose City Council member Ash Kalra told the crowd.
Representatives at SIS and Google were not available for comment about the protest.
"What's this about? Workers' rights!" shouted a crowd of several dozen who marched around Google's campus Thursday afternoon. Signs said: "Security officers deserve secure jobs" and "Google: is it evil to turn a blind on SIS's bad behavior?"
Members of a delegation of 400 Belgian business leaders who were visiting Google seemed to be bit surprised by the action.
"We are accustomed to strikes in Belgium, it's a democratic right," said Gael Lambinon, a member of the Belgian business group. "It's nice to see that people are free to claim their rights, even at Google in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is not paradise — that is what we tend to imagine."
A young Googler approached the Voice to ask what the protest was about. Upon hearing a brief explanation, he said, "Whatever, I don't give a (expletive)."
Mountain View resident Elena Pacheco said the situation was illustrative of there being "two Silicon Valleys" where "the rich are getting more rich and the poor are getting worse."
A letter to Google from labor leaders and three San Jose City Council members claims that SIS posted anti-union content on its company website and "has gone so far as to break the law by infiltrating worker meetings — a charge which the federal government investigated — and substantiated."
The SIS website does have a page with information countering the SEIUs efforts, including a link to a ruling from the National Labor Relations board which says that the charge about SIS sending spies to union meetings "may have merit" but was dropped because it appeared to be an "isolated" incident and no other such charges have been made against SIS.
The SEIU reports that 40,000 security guards nationwide have joined the union.