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Facebook Cafeteria Workers Accept Union Friend Request

Cafeteria contractors join UNITE HERE through card check campaign

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Hundreds of cafeteria workers at Facebook will join hospitality labor giant UNITE HERE through a card check campaign.

On Monday, UNITE HERE Local 19, which represents 4,222 Silicon Valley service workers, announced that it had successfully organized more than 500 employees at Flagship Facility Services, the contractor that provides food service at the social media giant. The union submitted the results of its card check organizing effort—in which the union bypasses secret ballot elections with a petition process—on Friday. The union said that it will bargain for "increased wages to compete with skyrocketing rents and more affordable health benefits."

Union President Junior Sakalia said that the union will help to bridge the gap between wealthy tech tycoons and the workers that feed them at Facebook's 430,000 square foot headquarters in Menlo Park.

"I am standing up for everyone in my community and for a Union, because I want to give hope to everybody who works for Flagship at Facebook. We deserve to be able to stay," he said in a statement.

Organizing Facebook's contractor will provide a big boost for union leadership. The 500-member bargaining unit represents more than 10 percent of the 5,000 food service workers in Silicon Valley, according to UNITE HERE. The union's campaign focused on housing and wage inequality in the region, which remains one of the most expensive in the country. The union pledged to "make sure that the Bay Area is affordable for all" in a Facebook post announcing the union victory. Samuel Rasheed II, a line cook at Facebook, said in a statement that he believed the union would help boost wages.

"The more of us that do this, it will ultimately end up making a better community for all," he said in the union release. "If our lifestyles and our families are doing better, then the community is doing better…Tech could be better for all."

Local 19 collected $2.8 million in revenue in 2016, according its federal labor filing, with nearly all of that money coming from monthly dues payments between $39.95 and $51.80. Each of the newly unionized Flagship workers will also pay initiation fees ranging from $66.40 to $106.40.

Facebook has advertised its gourmet cafeteria and on-site restaurants to draw workers interested in Nacho Wednesdays and ice cream socials in addition to six-figure salaries. Flagship, which did not return request for comment, had 14 job openings at the Menlo Park facility, ranging from "Vegan Lead Cook" to "Food Receiver" and "Front of House Manager," as of Tuesday.

Facebook does not make hiring or salary decisions for third party contractors, but does mandate that all contractors pay a $15 minimum wage, provide at least 15 paid days off, and provide new child benefits. A company spokesman said that the union status will not affect how workers are treated on its campus, but that negotiations would remain between Flagship and Local 19.

"We are committed to providing a safe, fair work environment to everyone who helps Facebook bring the world closer together, including contractors. Our commitment does not change, regardless of union status," a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

Local 19 Business Manager Enrique Fernandez said that both companies cooperated with the organizing process.

"We are pleased that Facebook and Flagship have been cooperative partners in this organizing process," Fernandez said in a statement. "We look forward to sitting down to negotiate a contract that addresses some of the challenges workers are going through."