Labor activists protest Apple store in downtown SF

Arrests ended a sit-in Thursday at the downtown San Francisco Apple store organized by local labor leaders, who vowed to protest again soon.

Several dozen union workers, organizers and other activists converged on the tech giant’s flagship retail outlet near Union Square at Ellis and Stockton streets at about noon Thursday.

Labor organizers are taking aim at tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook for relying on low-paid workers, primarily people of color, for what they consider menial jobs like providing security at the companies’ Silicon Valley campuses.

Most well-paid tech workers are white and male, the companies’ diversity reports say, while the workers who drive the controversial white tech commuter buses, clean the offices and provide security include people of color who don’t enjoy benefits or living wages, organizers said.

“Big tech companies are not giving security officers living wages,” said Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council (who, for the record, uses a Blackberry). “We all love Apple products; they can treat their workers fairly.”

The protesters sat inside the Apple store for about an hour. Business continued as normal for a time before employees shut the door, according to demonstrators present.

Apple declined to ask San Francisco police to remove the protesters, police on scene said, so the demonstrators moved out onto the pavement, where about a dozen demonstrators were taken into custody by San Francisco police.

Those arrested included Mike Casey, president of Unite Here Local 2, organizers said.

A police spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm the arrest tally.

The demonstration is the most-direct action taken yet against Apple for the workers issue. That company and other Silicon Valley tech giants have yet to engage directly with labor, organizers said.

Organizers present Thursday said there would be a repeat demonstration soon.

“We’re hoping to get the attention of Apple,” said Jacob Hay, a spokesman for the demonstrators, who left the scene at about 1:30 p.m. chanting “We’ll be back!”

Twelve people were cited and released for disobeying a traffic officer's orders and blocking the sidewalk, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

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