There are very few rich people who actually pay attention to the issues faced by a minimum wage worker doing odd jobs to earn for his family. Mark Zuckerberg is visibly one of the most prominent among them all. The famous Facebook founder has been recently heard talking about ‘income inequality’ and suggesting things like, ‘the US should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.’ You may think life would be better for workers in the company headed by Zuckerberg himself, but the facts are sadly different. The Facebook campus in Menlo Park designed by Frank Gehry is as luxurious as it gets, but the Facebook employees do not live the luxury life that you may have imagined.
Things may be working perfectly well for the highly paid employees, but the minimum wage employees are barely making enough to make both ends meet. Zuck has been traveling the US, driving tractors, meeting recovering heroin addicts, all in an attempt to understand lives of people victimized by wealth inequality. A Facebook cafeteria worker Nicole just asked a question,
Is he going to come here?
The “here” is no farther than a few blocks from the Facebook campus where a family of 5, Nicole, her husband Victor, also a worker at the Facebook cafeteria, and their three kids reside in a two-car garage. The tiny place is crammed with three beds at the back and a coffee table and couch in the front, making the sitting area. The garage is next to Victor’s parent’s house where they have to go to use bathroom and kitchen.
Nicole and Victor already make above the $15 minimum wage established by Facebook for contractors, which is $19.85 and $17.85 an hour for Nicole and Victor respectively. It is important to note that it is the same Bay Area where even the highly paid software engineers have a difficult time keeping life together, and even the most inhabitable of houses in San Francisco cost no less than half a million dollars.
The family is also making too much to qualify for state healthcare and not enough to make it for the health insurance offered by the company itself. The couple says, “Back in the day, our wage was a great number. But because of Facebook moving in, everything is so expensive. I have to get payday loans sometimes. We barely make it.” If you live in another place in the US, you may imagine $19.85 to be a very good pay, but according to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, the couple needs to make $24 an hour each to be able to raise three kids in the San Mateo County. Tech companies like Facebook have been known to spike income inequality, and rising housing prices in the San Mateo County have also been associated with the Facebook campus there.
The techies at the Facebook campus may be living a dream, but the low-income cafeteria workers are looked down upon. “They look at us like we’re lower, like we don’t matter. We don’t live the dream. The techies are living the dream. It’s for them,” Nicole explained the dilemma. Facebook recently held the “Bring your child to work” day, and the cafeteria workers were not allowed to bring their children. Every day, the leftover food goes to compost, but the workers are not allowed to take it home.
500 of Facebook cafeteria workers have elected to join a union Unite Here Local 19, with a hope to achieve a better living standard. “Our motivation is not to bash either company. It’s for our families. Why do we have to live like this, when the company we work for has the resources to make it better?” asks Nicole. “We’re not asking for millions. I just want to not be afraid if I need to go to the doctor. That’s the reason we’re uniting,” added Victor.
Source: The Guardian