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Contract workers invade Apple campus demanding better pay and working conditions

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A group of more than 100 protestors, including civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, convened at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus on Thursday to protest treatment of Silicon Valley contract labor and deliver a petition calling on the tech giant to set a trend toward reform.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Jackson accompanied a demonstration led by regional union United Service Workers West — a division of the national Service Employees International Union — which in November pushed Apple to stand up for rights of contract workers like security guards.

At issue is the reportedly low pay contractors receive in comparison to those holding skill positions at big tech firms in the Bay Area. For example, Apple's security guard contractor Security Industry Specialists pays employees $19.77 per hour, not including benefits, which the SEIU-USWW claims is not enough to offset the area's high cost of living.

When Jackson arrived at today's protest, he asked the gathered crowd to repeat his words, "We marvel at the growth of high tech and biotech, but we are the foundation. We fight today in the rain for job security and justice." A storm is currently bearing down on San Francisco and surrounding areas, cutting power to portions of the city.

Jackson, who just days ago had a fruitful discussion with Apple CEO Tim Cook on corporate diversity, was in town for a workplace diversity conference held by his Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Following Jackson's departure, those in attendance moved into an Apple office building to deliver a petition signed by 20,000 people calling on the company to push for better service worker rights. The initiative is relying on Apple to catalyze change in other Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.

While inside the unnamed building's lobby, protestors chanted, "Sí se puede" ("Yes, we can") and brandished a sign reading, "Apple dodges taxes, we pay the price." Art Pulaski, executive treasurer and secretary of the California Labor Federation, told protestors they were supported by union members from across the state. Pulaski, too, joined in on demonstration, saying to the crowd, "It's time for Apple to think different."

Contract worker rights is part of a larger umbrella issue related to a wage gap between laborers and corporate employees. Stemming from economic discord is the so-called gentrification of San Francisco, which recently reached a tipping point when tech companies started using municipal bus stops for shuttles that ferry passengers from their homes to jobs outside the city.