MONEY | Summer 2015
Facebook Leans In
The tech giant gave contracted workers a huge boost
ARE YOU A PERSON WHO CAN’T go a whole day, or even a whole hour, without checking Facebook? Or do you belong in the opposite camp with folks who declare it a colossal waste of time? Either way, you should be paying attention to some recent developments at this behemoth of online business, especially if you’re a woman.
No, it’s not the rollout of a nifty new feature aimed mostly at women. It’s much more important than that. In a short and to-the-point post in May, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced a new policy that could be a game changer in Silicon Valley and far beyond. A number of Facebook contractors in the U.S. are now required to pay a $15 minimum wage, provide a minimum 15 paid days off for holidays and sick time, and give a $4,000 bonus to new parents who don’t receive paid parental leave.
The policy applies immediately to larger contractors with employees working on-site at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters and will be expanded to a larger number of vendors within a year. That broader group will include U.S.-based companies with more than 25 employees doing substantial work on behalf of Facebook. Though not explicitly spelled out, it’s clear that the new policy is a requirement—not a suggestion—for companies that want to continue contracting with Facebook.
This is a huge step forward for lower-wage workers, particularly women, since they make up two- thirds of minimum-wage workers nationally and so stand to gain the most when minimums and benefits are boosted. And Facebook’s actions could have a ripple effect, putting pressure on other companies to follow suit.
Indeed, some of Facebook’s policies to increase workforce diversity are already sought after by other businesses. Responding to numerous requests, Facebook recently made available the training materials it provides to its own staff to correct “unconscious bias” toward women and people of color in the workplace.
Facebook does not publish pay scales for any workers employed directly with the company. But according to a report on Forbes.com, full-time Facebook staff get health insurance, four months of paid parental leave, $4,000 for a new baby and subsidized day care, as well as free meals and services such as on-site laundry and dry cleaning.
The new rules may have been helped along by activism from some of Facebook’s existing contract workers. Shuttle-bus drivers for Facebook (employed by the contractor Loop) had already joined the Teamster’s union before Sandberg’s announcement, and had been agitating for a better deal. Their actions culminated last February in a contract with Loop, which was approved by Facebook. Far stronger than the requirements on other contractors Facebook announced in May, it includes 11 paid holidays, up to five weeks paid vacation, paid bereavement leave, fully paid health care for workers and the families of full-time workers, and base wages up to $28.50 per hour within the first three years of employment.
Another factor leading to Facebook’s announcement could have been a desire to get ahead of the curve on minimum wage and other labor- law changes in California. Next year California will start publishing not only the names of employers that have more than 100 workers on Medicaid, but also how much those companies are costing the taxpayers in public aid.
Facebook’s decision also comes on the heels of changes at Google. Earlier this year, some of the tech giant's contracted service workers—including bus drivers, cafe workers, valets and bike technicians—began receiving a minimum wage of $15 an hour and subsidized health insurance.
Raising the bar on contract labor is a good move for Facebook and a great boost for the lowest-wage workers. Whether we love Facebook or hate it, we can all give it a great big “like” for this one.
MARTHA BURK, the Ms. Money editor, is author of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need.
Reprinted from the Summer issue of Ms. Photo via Shutterstock. To have this issue delivered straight to your door, Apple, or Android device, join the Ms. Community.
Comments on this piece? We want to hear them! Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. To have your letter considered for publication, please include your city and state.