Monday, July 24, 2017

Shadow People

As one who lives in the shadows I get what it is like. You are invisible, you are ignored and dismissed as you have a job, a roof over your head and are not living in dire poverty. It comes with age, with gender, with ethnicity. People don't look away or get off elevators when your board but they avoid eye contact or any type of encounter other than polite demonstratives. It is an isolating existence and our ranks are large. We are the table bussers, the garbage and street collectors, the gym towel persons, the substitute teacher, the temporary worker. We make minimum wage or just above, we are educated, we are new to the country, we are married, we are single, we are parents, we are gay/straight and everything in between.  We are anyone and everyone.

I have lived in the shadows for all my life. I actually like it. I was a temporary worker, a retail clerk and Teacher then a Substitute. I owned my own business and lost in the divorce and could not find a partner who was willing to take a risk with me to build a business but then it was 2008 and risks were not a part of that equation. I went back to Teaching as a Sub and what was temporary became a profession. I live in Nashville now and that isolation finally realized itself as one that has shown to be a bad choice and decision. I will never be anyone but a shadow and that is the choice I have to live with.

But not everyone does. They want the "American Dream." And all of it in the shadow of those lucky, smart and well connected enough to attain it. Mark Zuckerberg is the epitome of what we define "self-made" if that means having well to do parents, a chance to enter Harvard and the friends who supported and aided that vision. The ability to cut those out and rise above and in turn find new faces to envision the vision even further. When I listen to Zuckerberg speak I hear an idiot who was lucky. Nothing about him says smart, interesting or even well educated. He reminds me of the same young man who came before him in Seattle who bullied and used people to climb to the top of the ladder and kick anyone on the up and in the way out on the road to success. He lived in Seattle to, the child or well connected parents and an opportunity to go to Harvard and drop out on the way to be the wealthiest man in America.

The story of Bill Gates, of Jeff Bezos shows men whose personality pushes others to drive beyond the vision and in turn once that has been achieved the sudden turn around to be a better man arrives and with it the foundations, the philanthropy and the politics. This pattern was well established by the Robber Barons of another era, the patrons of arts and family dynasty's that came from America's growth through its history. They were the Rockefeller's, the Carnegie's, the Vanderbilt's and others whose names adorn libraries, colleges and buildings throughout America.  The palaces and corporate buildings for the rich are their permanent markers to remind those who come after they will not be forgotten.

 The family has now long been supplanted by a new generation whose aspiration and desperation is just the same and as one name comes down a new one is replaced, new buildings are built, new ambitions met. This is the cycle of the rich.

When I read the story below I laughed as right now Prince Zuckerberg is busy on his listening tour and was rebuffed by the Park System to have a Glacier expert speak to him.  Well one Dynasty abutted another so we have something to look forward to in 50 years to see how that one works out. Well I won't be here as I unlike the tech sector have no desire to live to 100.

Facebook worker living in garage to Zuckerberg: challenges are right outside your door

As the Facebook CEO travels across the US to ‘learn about people’s hopes and challenges’, the cafeteria workers at his company struggle to make ends meet

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
The GuardianUK
Monday 24 July 2017

Mark Zuckerberg’s travels throughout the United States to fulfill his 2017 “personal challenge” to “learn about people’s hopes and challenges” have seen him drive a tractor, meet with recovering heroin addicts, don a hard hat and speak out against the staggering wealth inequality that his $68.5bn fortune so clearly represents.

But to Nicole, a worker in one of Facebook’s cafeterias, they have also raised an important question: “Is he going to come here?”

“Here” is just a few miles from Zuckerberg’s five-house compound in Palo Alto and mere blocks from Facebook’s sprawling Menlo Park headquarters. Here, on a quiet street of modest bungalows, Nicole and her husband Victor, who also works at a Facebook cafeteria, live in a two-car garage with their children, ages nine, eight and four.

“He doesn’t have to go around the world,” said Nicole. “He should learn what’s happening in this city.”

The family of five have lived in this cramped space next to Victor’s parents’ house for three years. Three beds crowd the back wall, while a couch and coffee table mark the front of the room as a living area. Clothes are hung neatly from the garage door tracks. The family goes next door to use the bathroom and kitchen. “It’s not easy,” Victor said on a recent morning. “Especially when it’s raining.”

“Our daughter continues to ask us when she’s going to get her own room, and we don’t know what to tell her,” added Nicole.

On Friday, the couple were among about 500 Facebook cafeteria workers who elected to join a union, Unite Here Local 19. They are the latest group of tech industry service workers to seek unionization in the hopes of achieving a better standard of living.

Neither Facebook nor the food service contractor, Flagship Facility Services, opposed the union drive.

Working at a Facebook cafeteria is an enviable job in many ways. Nicole earns $19.85 an hour as a shift lead, while Victor makes $17.85 – well above the $15 per hour minimum for contractors that Facebook established in 2015.

But in a region where software engineers earning four times as much complain about “trying to make ends meet”, the family is struggling.

They earn too much to qualify for state health care, but not enough to afford the health insurance offered by their employer. They frequently struggle to find enough money for basics like food and clothes for their children. Victor recently borrowed money from his mother to hold a birthday party for one of his daughters, and from a friend to pay for a dentist appointment.

“Back in the day, [the wage] would have been a great number,” said Victor, “but because of Facebook moving in, everything is so expensive. I have to get payday loans sometimes. We barely make it.”

At times, the challenges make the couple nostalgic for the days before Facebook moved to Menlo Park. When Victor was growing up, his father was able to buy a small house in Menlo Park with his earnings a landscaper. Earlier in their relationship, the couple both earned about $12 per hour as managers at Chipotle and were able to afford their own apartment.

“I felt more secure at my other job. You didn’t have people looking down at you,” Nicole said. Now she works at cafeterias with names like “Epic” and “Living the Dream”, and the distance between the two classes of Facebook workers can feel immense.

“They look at us like we’re lower, like we don’t matter,” said Nicole of the Facebook employees. “We don’t live the dream. The techies are living the dream. It’s for them.”

The smaller indignities are numerous. At the end of every shift, Nicole watches large amounts of leftover food go into the compost – food that she’s not allowed to take home. Cafeteria workers only enter Facebook’s medical clinics if they’ve been selected for a mandatory drug test. Facebook recently held a “Bring your kids to work” day, but cafeteria workers’ children were not allowed.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said that none of the company’s contingent or contract workers have access to facilities such as clinics, gyms, or bring your kid to work days, but that other policies were a matter between the contractor and the workers.

“We are committed to providing a safe, fair, work environment to everyone who helps Facebook bring the world closer together, including contractors,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

A spokesman for Flagship said that it “looks forward to a positive and productive relationship with the union”. The company declined to comment on its policies for workers at the Facebook campus.

“People think oh, you’re working for Facebook, you’re doing great,” Victor said.

“I’m supposed to the strong one in the family, and to be pushing off promises to the kids – to go buy clothes or food … We’re both working and we still can’t provide.”

“Our motivation is not to bash either company,” said Nicole. “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?”

“We’re not asking for millions,” added Victor. “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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