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Facebook Cafeteria Workers Unionize to Fight Inadequate Pay

While Zuckerberg tours blue collar towns in Iowa, Facebook cafeteria workers point to their own struggles

Anthony Quintano/Flickr

500 cafeteria workers at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park elected to unionize last Friday, the Guardian Reports, as some called their pay inadequate for the local cost of living. Meanwhile, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg can be seen meeting with blue collar laborers across the country, musing on the future of work and wages as part of a highly publicized national tour. Now, as they form their union, some of Facebook’s cafeteria workers are asking whether Zuckerberg has any plans to talk to the people who serve him lunch.

“He doesn’t have to go around the world,” a cafeteria worker identified as Nicole told the Guardian. “He should learn what’s happening in this city.” She lives in Menlo Park with her husband Victor, also a Facebook cafeteria worker, and their three children ages nine, eight, and four. But in stark contrast to Zuckerberg, who lives in a five-house compound nearby, Nicole and Victor’s entire family is cramped into a two-car garage attached to Victor’s parents’ house.

With the tech company’s food service contractor Flagship Facility Services, Nicole earns $19.85 and Victor earns $17.85. That would have been a high-paying job “back in the day” according to Victor, who grew up in Menlo Park — but Facebook’s presence in the area, especially given the Bay Area’s shortage of housing, has driven up the area’s cost of living. A Zillow estimate for Menlo Park shows median home values at a dizzying $1,984,400. Now the couple is “barely making it,” sometime taking out payday loans to pay for necessities like clothes and food.

Neither Flagship Facility Services nor Facebook opposes the unionization effort, and it bears remembering that Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have pledged to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charitable causes through their limited liability corporation the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. But those efforts haven’t had a direct effect on workers like Nicole and Victor, who spend their days serving highly-paid workers in cafeterias bearing names like “Epic” and “Liv’n the Dream.” For them, it’s a painful irony that the CEO of the company where they work advertises his efforts to understand struggling Americans while they struggle, unnoticed, in his own backyard.