Bus drivers who ferry Facebook's highly paid software engineers to and from their expensive homes in the Silicon Valley area want to unionize, citing unlivable wages and long work days have pushed them to want to "bargain a fair contract."

In a pointed letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Teamsters secretary-treasurer Rome Aloise asks Zuckerberg to pressure Loop Transportation, the subcontractor that employs Facebook's bus drivers, to agree to bargain with the Teamsters Local 583 of San Leandro on behalf of the 40 Facebook drivers. Aloise says that the drivers' $20 hourly wage is not enough to support a family, send children to school or afford a house in the Bay Area, where the prices of real estate are some of the highest in the country.

"This is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants," Aloise writes (pdf). "Frankly, little has changed; except the noblemen are your employees, and the servants are the bus drivers who carry them back and forth each day."

Cliff Doi, a 55-year-old bus driver who shuttles Facebook workers from Mountain View to Menlo Park, tells the New York Times the biggest problem is not the near-rock bottom wage; it's the exhausting split-shift schedule. Doi, for instance, starts at 6 a.m. and takes a six-hour break from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., when Facebook's workers head home. His day ends at 9:45 p.m. That's a 16-hour work day paid for with nine hours worth of salary.

"I'd like to have a union come in and see if they can negotiate something about this six-hour split, so it would be more comfortable for the drivers in some way," says Doi. "Maybe the union could come up with some creative way to help with the schedule."

Like most Facebook drivers, Doi lives far from Menlo Park; driving home after the first shift is impractical. Most of them stay in Facebook's cafeteria or nap inside their cars, hanging blankets over the windows to provide cover from the sun.

Facebook has declined to comment, but one insider who spoke on condition of anonymity says it was Loop Transportation that decided the drivers' wages and schedules. Jeff Leonoudakis, president of the subcontracting firm, says the company "believes we take really good care of our drivers."

"They're the heart of our company. Without them, we can't provide service to our customers," he says. "We pay overtime, which most of our competitors do not pay. In keeping with the fact that we provide this high level of wages and benefits to our drivers, I don't think the union is necessary in this case."

Leonoudakis also says that the drivers receive a "generous" medical and dental plan as well as vacations, sick leaves and holiday pay. The drivers, he says, also have access to a lounge with a big-screen TV and recliners provided by the company where they could stay during their break. But Doi says the reclining chairs are less than ideal for napping and he has yet to see the bunk beds Loop Transportation promised.

This comes amid growing complaints from labor groups in the area who are increasingly growing more discontent about the disparity between highly paid technology workers and blue-collar workers subcontracted by companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple. Recently, Google responded to public pressure and promised to directly hire 200 security guards and provide better wages and the same perks and benefits that Google's employees receive.

Leonoudakis says the industry doesn't have a solution for the split-shift problem, but Aloise says there is a solution.

"A very simple fix to the bus driver's horrific work schedule is to pay the contractor who employs the drivers enough money to fix the split-shift problem," Aloise says, "and to enable the contractor to pay a wage that allows these drivers to improve their lives."

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