There’s a growing divide in the tech sector, as well as the larger American workforce, between formal employees and contractors who often do the same work for less money, fewer benefits, and scant perks. The unequal treatment of contractors and temps was one of the issues raised by organizers of the Google Walkout on November 1, as well as at other companies in Silicon Valley, where more and more activists are demanding change. That includes Facebook, where Casey Newton’s recent exposé revealed that some contracted content moderators are paid just $28,000 a year, almost a tenth of the total compensation of the average Facebook employee ($240,000).
The fight for solidarity may now be spreading to Facebook, with the launch this week of a group called Workers for Workers. Its website features anonymous stories by Facebook contractors, known as “contingent workers.” The first (and thus far only) post, by someone called “Alice,” states: “The number one thing I’m worried about right now is being stuck in these kinds of contracting roles forever. Never making more than $25 an hour, and being a permanent contractor . . . ” It doesn’t say how long Alice has been contracting. (I’ve been reaching out to Worker for Worker but have not yet heard back from them.)
The group is running a survey of staff and contingent workers to gauge the mood and conditions at Facebook, with questions such as: How safe do you feel at Facebook the workplace? (Activists at Google note that contractors didn’t receive the same safety updates that staffers did during the April YouTube shooting incident in which three workers were injured and the attacker killed herself.)
— Workers For Workers ✊????✊????✊???? (@workers4workers) March 7, 2019
Other survey questions include topics like how optimistic workers are about their long-term career prospects, who employs them (contractors go through one or more agencies), and if they can “afford to live within a reasonable commuting distance” of their Facebook office. Twenty-five dollars per hour works out to about $52,000 per year, in an industry (in)famous for six-figure salaries, with offices often in the most expensive housing markets. (Still, it beats the $15 per hour that gig workers are striving for at companies like DoorDash and Instacart.)
Where is this effort heading? The “Campaigns” section of the website states, “More to come soon!” We’ll keep an eye out.