Facebook’s underclass: as staffers enjoy lavish perks, contractors barely get by
The social network has an army of behind-the-scenes employees who cant afford to live in an area with out-of-control housing costs
As one of the most desirable employers in Silicon Valley, Facebook has built a small town square for staff at its headquarters in Menlo Park. After leaving the car with a valet attendant, employees can work out at the gym, take their bikes for a tune-up, drop off their dry cleaning, pop by the company dentist or doctors office, play video games in the arcade, or even sit down for a trim at the barbers shop.
But keeping all of those amenities running requires an army of subcontracted contingent workers, including bicycle mechanics, security guards and janitors.
Maria Gonzalez, a janitor at Facebook, is part of that battalion. She said she liked working at Facebook and didnt resent the engineers and product managers she cleans up after. I know that they are the ones that are making the money, she said in Spanish. They are the ones doing the hard job and getting fair pay.
But it does strike her as ironic that the most highly paid workers at Facebook are also the ones who get all the free amenities.
They have free laundry, haircuts, free food at any time, free gym, all the regular things that you have to pay for, but they have it for free, said Gonzalez, who with her husband spends more than half their combined income on rent in nearby San Jose. Its not the same for janitors. We just leave with the check.
The $500bn company has been conscientious about ensuring that its subcontracted workers are relatively well paid. In May 2015, amid a nationwide movement to raise the minimum wage, the company established a $15 an hour minimum for its contractors, as well as benefits like paid sick leave, vacation and a $4,000 new-child benefit.
But those wages only go so far in a region with out-of-control housing costs. San Francisco and San Jose ranked first and third in the nation a recent analysis of rents, with one-bedroom apartments in San Jose going for $2,378. The extreme cost of housing is why California has the highest poverty rate in the country, according to a US Census figure that takes into account a regions cost of living.