27 Julio 2017 09:48
Many of the big companies in Silicon Valley began in garages. Now, precarious working conditions have made these same places a home for their workers
The popular myth of the garage, cheap and nasty student bedroom or insert-here-any-seedy-and-potentially-uninspiring-space has followed some of the Silicon Valley’s greatest magnates right from their humble beginnings.
There’s the famous garage at 2066 Crist Drive, in Los Altos, where a young Steve Jobs built his first Apple computer. Or that of 232 Santa Margarita Avenue, in Menlo Park, where, in 1998, one of the largest technological companies in history was created: Google.
However, romanticising about precarious living conditions and the idea of the self-made man, a concept much revered by Silicon Valley and which goes hand-in-hand with the garage myth, doesn’t seem quite so cool when you meet people now living where the residents of Silicon Valley park their cars. And they’re not future CEOs of multi-billion-dollar companies, but rather their workers.
This is the case for Nicole and Victor, a couple who both work in the Facebook cafeteria and who have to live in a two-car garage with their three children aged nine, eight and four.
According to a report in The Guardian, the couple are two of 500 workers at the social network’s cafeteria who have recently decided to join a union, Unite Here Local 19. They hope the move will prompt Facebook and Flagship Facility Services, the food service contractor, to improve their working conditions.
Despite living just kilometres from Mark Zuckerberg’s colossal mansion and close to the Facebook offices in Menlo Park, neither Victor nor Nicole have enough money to buy a house in the area or even to pay for basic things like food or dentist appointments for their kids.
Although Nicole is paid 19.85 dollars an hour and Victor 17.85 dollars, above the minimum wage of 15 dollars established by Facebook in 2015, getting to the end of the month is still a struggle, partly because they live in an area where most people earn much more than they do.
The couple have criticised Zuckerberg for travelling around the world and helping others, while ignoring his own people. ‘He doesn’t have to go around the world. He should learn what’s happening in this city,’ says Nicole.
Workers at the Facebook cafeteria complain that they are not allowed to take home leftover food and are denied access to Facebook’s medical clinics. The company has defended itself saying that none of its contract workers have access to facilities like the gym or private clinics, and that other kinds of policies were a matter between the contractors and workers.
‘We are committed to providing a safe, fair work environment to everyone who helps Facebook bring the world closer together, including contractors,’ declared Facebook in a statement.
A spokesman for Flagship said the company ‘looks forward to a positive and productive relationship with the union,’ but refused to comment on its policies for workers at Facebook.
Nicole’s arguments are far more straightforward. ‘Our motivation is not to bash either company. It’s for our families. Why do we have to live like this, when the company we work for has the resources to make it better?’