In his recent adventures beyond the valley, Mark Zuckerberg has made a point of hammering on the issue of income inequality, saying the US should “explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.” But Zuckerberg needs to look no further than his own workers who live just miles from Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed campus to find striking examples of appalling income disparity.
A new story from The Guardian sheds light on two Facebook contractors who live in a two-car garage with their children. Nicole and her husband Victor both work in Facebook’s cafeterias, but even though they earn well above Facebook’s $15-per-hour minimum, they say it’s not enough to provide for their three children—ages nine, eight, and four.
“He doesn’t have to go around the world. He should learn what’s happening in this city,” Nicole said.
Nicole makes $19.85 an hour, while Victor makes $17.85 an hour, but both say they don’t make enough to even afford the company’s health insurance. “Back in the day, [the wage] would have been a great number,” Victor told the Guardian. “But because of Facebook moving in, everything is so expensive. I have to get payday loans sometimes. We barely make it.”
While $19.85 an hour may sound good in some parts of the US, MIT’s Living Wage Calculator estimates that Nicole and Victor each need to earn about $24 an hour to raise three kids in San Mateo County, where Facebook’s headquarters are located. Ever-expanding tech companies like Facebook have been found to exacerbate income inequality. And in San Mateo, Facebook has been pegged as the cause of spiking housing prices.
On Friday Facebook’s cafeteria contractors voted to unionize “in the hopes of achieving a better standard of living,” the Guardian writes. Facebook reportedly did not try to prevent its workers from joining the union.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian that Facebook is “committed to providing a safe, fair, work environment to everyone who helps Facebook bring the world closer together, including contractors.” Yet, contract workers such as Nicole and Victor don’t have access to the company’s clinics or gyms.
These two contractors might not be representative of everyone working at Facebook, but it’s still pretty jarring to hear that Facebook contractors struggle to buy their children clothes and food—especially after you learn how much Facebook pays its interns.