In 2017, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a pledge to "learn about people's hopes and challenges," which has led him on a journey across the U.S. in a bid to understand the plight of the American worker. Since his tour began, the Guardian has chronicled the struggles of his own employees as he rides tractors and puts on hard hats for photo-ops.
The piece centers on Nicole and Victor, two Facebook cafeteria workers who, despite earning high hourly rates, are forced to live in Victor's parents' two-car garage with their three children. Nicole makes $19.85 while Victor earns $17.85, both of which exceed the $15 minimum that Facebook established in 2015.
The family's living situation is a stark contrast from their earnings. The Guardian describes their small home with three beds crammed against the back wall with a couch and coffee table acting as the living room. The family is forced to use the kitchen and bathroom next door, something Victor describes as very difficult, "especially when it's raining."
The couple joins a group of around 500 employees of the social media site who elected to join the union, Unite Here Local 19. This trend is growing as the number of Silicon Valley's poorest employees look for solutions to the issues they're facing. In this case, the players aren't necessarily nefarious actors. Rather, the system is at fault. Neither Facebook, nor its food service contractor Flagship Facility Services opposed the union drive, and the company seems to want to let people make their voices heard.
The problem at its core is the rate at which the economy changed for working people as the tech companies came rolling in. In the Guardian piece, Victor described how wonderful his wage would be before the tech boom, but claims that the rise in prices of most goods and services have made his wage ineffective in the marketplace.
Guardian reports how the couple described life before the arrival of Silicon Valley citing how Victor's father was able to purchase a small house on a landscapers earnings while they could afford their own apartment as managers at a Chipotle restaurant. Nicole now laments at the changes she is witnessing as an employee in the tech world. She claims, "They look at us like we're lower, like we don't matter" and, "We don't live the dream. The techies are living the dream. It's for them."
Nicole and Victor remark how leftover food is sent to a compost, instead of being allowed to take home for employees, and how the company's medical clinics aren't accessible for cafeteria workers. The two also noted how Facebook barred cafeteria staff from participating in a "Bring your kids to work" day.
This brings everything back to Zuckerberg, who is at the helm of Facebook's strategy. It's obvious that the tech boom brought massive changes to the world and Zuckerberg's capitalization of the market, as well as the other successful internet pioneers, define a new era of industry. With these new companies came a corporate culture that seeks to fix the problems of the world and address new and scientific solutions to issues that have existed for a while without a solution.
The prospect of a tech-wizard like Zuckerberg traveling the country may seem like a real step in the right direction, but there might be more to it than that. Zuckerberg may be just doing the rounds to see how well he would fare in a presidential run, and although that may be a long shot there are quite a few hints that might get you to consider it. Last year, Facebook released a proxy statement that claimed he could run Facebook while simultaneously running for a public office. In addition, Zuckerberg retracted his former identification as an atheist and has been hiring former political advisors from the Obama administration.
For Victor and Nicole, Zuckerberg's U.D. tour does more to test his political prowess than fixing their problems.
"He doesn't have to go around the world," Nicole told the Guardian. "He should learn what's happening in this city."
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