This piece is headlined and heavily focused on Apple, of course, with attention-grabbing buzzwords like "black site" but if you actually read it, how contractors — real people denied full-time employment in favor of short-term contracts — are treated is a problem that deeply affects the entire silicon valley major tech company scene.
Places like Hammerwood undermine the mythology of Silicon Valley as a kind of industrial utopia where talented people work themselves to the bone in exchange for outsize salaries and stock options. A common perception in the Bay Area is that its only serious tech-labor issue is the high cost of living driven by the industry's obscene salaries. But many of those poorer residents work in tech, too. For decades, contractors and other contingent workers have served meals, driven buses, and cleaned toilets at tech campuses. They've also built circuit boards and written and tested software, all in exchange for hourly wages and little or no job security.
In different forms, temporary labor as an alternative to full-time employment has grown across the U.S. economy. Companies in many industries now use staffing firms to handle work once done by full-time workers. The technology industry offers one of the starkest examples of how the groups' fortunes have diverged. While companies aren't required to disclose the sizes of their contingent workforces, there's ample evidence that tech companies use large numbers of contractors and temps.
For Apple's part, Bloomberg ran this statement:
Apex, not Apple, manages the workers it hires. Apple says it requires contracting firms to treat workers with "dignity and respect." Following an inquiry from Bloomberg News, the company says, it conducted a surprise audit of the Hammerwood facility and found a work environment consistent with other Apple locations. "Like we do with other suppliers, we will work with Apex to review their management systems, including recruiting and termination protocols, to ensure the terms and conditions of employment are transparent and clearly communicated to workers in advance," an Apple spokesperson says in a statement.
I'm sure it makes financial sense on these companies' books to run their ops like this, but does it make human sense? And isn't that that a longer range, more market-seeding metric to go for?
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