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In California’s Silicon Valley, home of the world’s leading tech companies, Latino and black workers are finding plenty of jobs. The trouble is, they’re not the kinds of jobs that promote self-sufficiency in pricey Santa Clara County.

According to a recent Working Partnerships USA study titled “Tech’s Diversity Problem: More Than Meets the Eye,” three-quarters of workers on maintenance crews, four out of 10 security guards, and seven out of 10 janitors at Silicon Valley tech firms are Latino or black.

While blacks and Latinos make up 28 percent of Santa Clara County’s workforce, they represent a tiny fraction of the white-collar professionals earning big bucks from these highly profitable companies. They’re keeping these tech giants operating, in other words, but they’re not reaping the benefits.

As USA Today reports, the median wage for the area’s software developers is $63.32 per hour. A landscape worker, meanwhile, can expect to earn a mere $13.82 an hour, while janitors get $11.39 and security guards make $14.17.

What’s more, many of these lower-wage workers aren’t employed by the likes of Apple and Google. Instead, they sign on with contract companies that seldom provide adequate benefits. As per the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 55 percent of private-protective service jobs don’t offer sick pay. For building and grounds jobs, that number is even higher, at 59 percent.

It all adds up to what Joint Venture Silicon Valley CEO and president Russell Hancock calls “the new Silicon Valley model.”

“Companies have two work forces: their professional work force and their contract work force,” Hancock told USA Today. “It’s a bifurcated system. You have the high-end work force: the architects, coders and sophisticated PhDs, and you invest heavily in them and feed them and create this cocoon-like environment that answers their every need. And then, on the other hand, you need armies of people doing basic functions, so you set up a separate and distinct system for them.”

It seems like a giant problem, but as Working Partnerships USA reports, for just $5 more per hour — the equivalent of a “rounding error” for some of these enormous tech firms — a security guard would be able to achieve self-sufficiency.


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