updated 09:56 pm EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Protest accommodated until doors to store blocked
A group of corporate and retail security guards for Apple stores staged a peaceful protest of what they consider to be low pay relative to other employees at the company's flagship San Francisco store on Thursday. The issue the guards were drawing attention to is not one specific to Apple, but endemic among tech firms in Silicon Valley -- who collectively tend to pay cleaning, support, maintenance and security staff lower wages on average than regular employees.
The protesters held signs and peacefully occupied the store for around an hour until they began blocking the entrance to the store, which policed deemed to be a safety hazard, reports Valleywag. Store employees had originally planned to simply accommodate the protest, but when the doors were blocked police began arresting and removing the protesters, saying that they refused to obey police orders to clear the entryway. At that point, the demonstration was declared illegal. Around a dozen people were arrested without resistance.
According to Working Partnerships USA, the average pay of Silicon Valley security guards is around $14.17 per hour. While in many areas of the US this rate might seem above average, the cost of living in the San Francisco and surrounding areas is very high. Most guards get fewer than 30 hours a week, and many are considered independent contractors, meaning their taxes come out of that hourly wage. National Public Radio did a profile of one of the companies Apple uses to supply guards in the Silicon Valley area late last year, and reported that while salary was around $16 per hour, a typical guard would be lucky to take home $1,400 per month from such work after taxes.
The protesters were said to have held signs identifying themselves as members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) labor organization, with slogans including "Invisible No More" and "Opportunities for All Our Communities," a reference perhaps to Apple's recent admission that its workforce was not as diverse as the company would like. Some members live-tweeted the events, using the hashtag #techcandobetter, suggesting that the highly-profitable major employers of the area could afford to provide closer to regionally-average wages for support staff.