Confinement order widens Silicon Valley’s social gap

San Francisco, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Silicon Valley was under its first day of a shelter-at-home order due to the coronavirus on Tuesday, but not everyone experienced it the same way: while for the technology industry it was almost a normal day, those who needed to be physically present at their workplaces were worried about their future.

The pandemic has once again highlighted the enormous duality experienced by the global “mecca” of technology, in which the daily experience of those who work directly or indirectly in the sector (approximately 20 percent of workers) is largely removed from the rest.

“It’s really nice to not have to commute anymore, so that’s a big plus,” Brice Tuttle, who works for a firm with thousands of employees with headquarters in San José, California, told EFE. He asked for his company not to be named due to technology companies’ strict policies of employees not talking to the press.

The confinement order issued Monday by six San Francisco Bay Area counties (which together include the entire Silicon Valley) has not changed Tuttle’s routine, since he had already been working for two and a half weeks from home, as have most of his colleagues.

“It started out as something voluntary, then it became a strong recommendation, and at this point it’s been required — it’s been required for two weeks,” said the 31-year-old graphic designer, who is pleased that the company has “good infrastructure for remote work already.”

The case of Tuttle’s company is the same at all big tech firms. Twitter (based in San Francisco) was the first to ask all its employees to work from home on Mar. 2, and since then others have done the same, minimizing the effects of Monday’s order.

But not everyone in Silicon Valley makes their living in technology. The vast majority of workers are engaged in other sectors, which in many cases require their physical presence, making them unable to continue operating during confinement or to work remotely.

“The truth is I am a little scared. Yesterday my boss told me that today we were not going to open and that he does not know when we will return to normal,” said Angie Fernández, 25, who works as a waitress in a cafe in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco through a phone call from her home.

Like Fernández, the confinement has left waiters, cooks, shop assistants, drivers and countless other occupations in a state of uncertainty, leaving them with a great disadvantage in terms of wages and conditions compared to Silicon Valley’s gold standard: the tech industry.

The gap grows even more when one takes into account the measures that the big tech companies are taking with their employees to mitigate the possible negative economic effects of the situation, such as Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday of compensating everyone with a bonus of $1,000 in their next pay.

The contrast with Fernández’s situation could not be greater, since not only will she not receive a bonus of any kind, but it is possible that the cafeteria that employs her will have difficulty keeping her if the situation continues for longer than the three weeks currently planned. EFE-EPA


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