Facebook will ensure that employees who work for its contractors — including security guards and food-service workers on its Menlo Park, California campus — will receive an hourly wage of at least $15, the company announced earlier this week.
Contractors and vendors who do “a substantial amount of work” with Facebook in the United States will also be expected to provide “minimum 15 paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, and, for those workers who don’t receive parental leave, a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents,” said Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in a statement published Tuesday on the company’s website.
The statement did not reveal what inspired the change in policy, and Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. But labor organizers who have been working to raise wages in Silicon Valley were quick to claim credit for helping propel the decision.
“Facebook’s decision to raise standards for contracted workers is a direct result of the powerful movement being built by security officers and other service workers in Silicon Valley,” said David Huerta, president of the labor union SEIU-USWW.
Huerta’s union has been at the forefront of the labor coalition attempting to organize low-wage workers on Silicon Valley’s tech campuses. While the Teamsters have successfully unionized shuttle drivers who work for Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and Ebay, SEIU-USWW has been focused on organizing security officers, particularly those who work on the Apple and Google campuses.
In the face of mounting pressure from these campaigns, other companies have also taken steps to change labor standards for their contractors. After protests from SEIU-USWW, both Google and Apple agreed to directly employ their security officers instead of contracting the work out.
The $15 announcement from Facebook is particularly significant because a $15 hourly wage is one of two core demands from the nationwide Fight for $15 campaign, which is also backed by SEIU. Fight for $15, which began in November 2012 as a campaign targeting the fast-food industry, seeks $15 per hour and union rights for low-wage workers across the service sector and other industries.
Facebook’s decision to set labor standards for its contractors also loosely parallels President Barack Obama’s decision last year to sign an executive order requiring all companies with federal contracts pay at least $10.10 to their employees. The executive order followed a series of protests from a labor group based in Washington, D.C., called Good Jobs Nation.
Derecka Mehrens, executive director of the California-based community-labor group Working Partnerships USA, said rules setting a wage floor for contractors benefit “high-road employers” and unionized contractors by making them more competitive. If Facebook requires that contractors pay their employees a certain amount, then it means non-union companies have less freedom to outbid their “high-road” competitors by aggressively cutting labor costs.
“When the floor is set low, the cost differential is really hard,” she said.
Nonetheless, she said, questions remain about how Facebook will implement its new policy: Will it apply to temporary workers, how will the company define “substantial work” and how does it intend to enforce the policy?
Mehrens also said the policy would likely benefit workers of color, who make up a disproportionate share of Facebook’s service sector contract workers, according to a 2014 Working Partnerships study. Whereas black and Latino workers make up a combined 3-4 percent of the Silicon Valley’s “core workforce,” the report found, they comprise 41 percent of Silicon Valley security guards and 72 percent of janitors.