‘It’s a crisis’: Facebook kitchen staff work multiple jobs to get by | US news



Nate Percastre makes $23 an hour working as a line cook at the cafeteria of Facebook’s San Francisco office, a job he loves and looks forward to every day.

Almost anywhere else in the country, his wage would have been enough to support his housing, his food, his healthcare and all the other basic costs of living. But in San Francisco, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,700 a month, Percastre, 43, has to work two other jobs in order to survive. Though he lives outside of the city, where rents are lower, and is on the waitlist for more affordable housing, more than 60% of his paycheck goes to his landlord, and his rent has just increased.

“It’s so absurd, the crisis that we’re living in right now,” Percastre said. “When a company is trying to pay you the same rate that they pay in other cities, we can’t accept that. We’re in San Francisco. The cost of living is way too high. Someone who works 40 hours a week should not be living below the poverty line.”

Percastre was part of a protest by Facebook’s cafeteria workers last week, which followed months of negotiations with FlagShip Facility Services, the food services contractor employed by the tech giant, over higher wages and a shorter work day. But the issues they are calling out are echoed throughout San Francisco’s food scene: service workers cannot afford to live in the city where they work.

In San Francisco, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,700 a month, some Facebook cafeteria employees have to work two other jobs in order to survive.

In San Francisco, where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,700 a month, some Facebook cafeteria employees have to work two other jobs in order to survive. Photograph: Courtesy of Unite Here Local 2

“Service sector workers, restaurant workers, hospitality workers in the city have all felt the squeeze over the past few years, and that is going to continue,” said Anand Singh, the president of Unite Here Local 2, the union that represents the cafeteria workers. “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution with the housing crisis and the affordability crisis, if workers that are working day-in and day-out for the largest tech companies can’t afford to make ends meet, I think we have to seriously examine what it is that we’re doing here.”

FlagShip Facility Services offered the San Francisco Facebook cafeteria workers “a compensation and benefits package in line with FlagShip employees in Menlo Park, Seattle, New York City, and Fremont” as well as the offer of further negotiation meetings, said Marion Terrell II, FlagShip Facility Services’ senior vice-president of human resources, in a statement.

“FlagShip is committed to ensuring a safe and fair working environment for all our employees, as well as having a positive and proactive relationship with our staff and union partners,” Terrell said. “FlagShip has long-standing relationships with many union partners around the country, and we willingly partner with stakeholders to advance the values of a positive working environment for our staff. We look forward to continuing dialogue with all involved.”

Anthony Harrison, a Facebook spokesman, said: “We value our Culinary team’s work immensely and continue to support the right of FlagShip employees to unionize. We have agreements in place with FlagShip for culinary staff in Menlo Park, Fremont, Seattle as well as New York City and we look forward to FlagShip and Unite Here reaching an agreement.”

For the Facebook cafeteria workers, the answer is simple: one job should be enough. Percastre’s situation is not unique. “It repeats with all my co-workers,” he said. “They have to work all the jobs.”

Delfina Ramirez, 24, works from 6am to 2.30pm as a line cook every day, and then drives for Uber for five to six hours. On weekends, she caters parties and events.

As a single mother with a five-year-old girl, she’s tired, Ramirez said. But she has no other choice. She rents out a room in her two-bedroom apartment in Daly City, bringing her monthly payments down to $2,200, but it’s still a significant portion of her paycheck.

“I don’t have time to take care of my daughter,” Ramirez said. “She asks me, ‘Mommy, why do you work so much?’ I tell her I have to do it. I have to pay for rent, I have to pay for the car, I have to pay for school, I have to pay for the phone. Then I spend $118 every week just for transportation.”

In negotiating for higher wages and a guarantee of an eight-hour workday with a lunch break, “we’re simply asking that there’s an even playing field for working people in this city and we extend the promise that one job should be enough,” Singh said.

“Our perspective, looking at this company and looking at how these workers are serving tech workers at Facebook, one of the largest companies in the world, the fact that we’re having a dispute is rather remarkable,” Singh said. “If anyone can afford this, it is the tech industry.”