PALO ALTO (KCBS) – Hundreds of janitors who maintain offices at the largest Silicon Valley technology companies marched through Palo Alto Thursday to demand higher wages and better benefits.

The march coincided with a vote by SEIU United Service Workers West on whether to authorize a May 1 strike if the union cannot secure a new contract by the time the current agreement expires.

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“Innovation and the great brilliant thinking that happens here in the Valley that’s led to the growth of the economy would not be possible if those workers, those engineers, those dreamers, did not have comfortable clean offices that they could go into and work,” said Lauren Jacobs, first vice president of the union.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

Vilma Flores, one of the 500 janitors and supporters participated in the march from Page Mill Road down to University Avenue, said her $30,000 annual salary was not enough to raise two children in Silicon Valley.

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“I need more money,” she said.

Jacobs said the technology companies that hire the janitorial contracting companies have been sitting on billions of dollars in cash and can afford a better standard of living for low paid workers.

“This is not profits. This is just cash on hand, and we don’t believe that our members who work so hard to clean and maintain those buildings in which those folks work should be made to pay the price for a crisis they didn’t create,” Jacobs said.

If the union votes to authorize a strike, large companies such as Oracle and Cisco would be affected.

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