At the beginning of the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set a goal to visit every state in the U.S. so he could learn more about the millions of people who use the social network every day. But two of his employees tell The Guardian that they wonder when the billionaire is going to get to know his own community.
The employees, a married couple named Nicole and Victor, are both contract workers in the cafeteria at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters. And they wish they, and the problems closer to home, could also get a share of Zuckerberg's attention.
"He should learn what's happening in this city," Nicole tells The Guardian.
The couple says they can barely make ends meet. Together with their three children, Nicole and Victor share a two-car garage adjacent to Victor's parents' home. They borrow money from friends and family to stay afloat and occasionally resort to payday loans.
Although they earn too much to qualify for state benefits, they don't earn enough to afford Facebook's health care plan.
Both parents earn well above the $15 minimum wage Facebook established for all of its contractors back in 2015, The Guardian reports. Victor earns $17.85 an hour and Nicole $19.85.
Before taking jobs at Facebook, both Nicole and Victor earned $12 an hour as managers at Chipotle. But thanks to the rapidly increasing cost of living in the Bay Area, even the higher wages aren't enough.
Some Facebook engineers reportedly asked Mark Zuckerberg for help paying rent while Twitter employees earning $160,000 can feel like they're barely scraping by. Even some residents making six-figures can qualify as "low-income" and receive housing subsidies.
And Facebook has taken notice.
In June, the social media giant released plans to turn the 56-acre Menlo Science & Technology Park it bought in 2015 into a company town they're calling the Willow Campus. The development will include 1,500 new housing units, 15 percent of which will be priced below the market rate. The village won't be comprised of only Facebook employees, either. Facebook will open up the units to the community at large, Business Insider reports.
Google has similar plans to alleviate Silicon Valley's housing crisis. Google's parent company, Alphabet, is paying about $30 million to provide temporary, prefab housing for 300 of its employees.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Alphabet is making a significant investment in modular housing built and shipped in from elsewhere by the start-up Factory OS, because the current local offerings are so overpriced: "San Francisco rents have jumped by almost 50 percent since 2010, while home prices have increased 98 percent since the bottom of the market in 2009."
Employees are taking steps themselves as well. On Friday, Nicole and Victor joined hundreds of Facebook cafeteria workers in unionizing in hopes of pressing for higher wages.
"We're not asking for millions," Victor tells The Guardian. "I just want to not be afraid if I need to go to the doctor. That's the reason we're uniting."
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