On July 16, Facebook cafeteria workers kicked off their struggle for higher wages, affordable healthcare and an eight-hour work day with a protest right in front of their downtown San Francisco workplace. After months of bargaining, the contracting company Flagship that employs the workers continues to refuse the demands. Over 200 Flagship workers, software engineers and community members picketed, chanting “Flagship bosses you’re no good, treat your workers like you should!” and “When cafeteria workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!” It was an inspiring first action for Flagship workers as they broaden their struggle for a living wage from the wealthy company to which they sell their labor in order to survive.
Delfina Ramirez Hernandez is a single mother working full-time for Flagship cooking meals for tech workers in San Francisco. She also drives for Uber after work and works for a catering company on weekends. She told Liberation News: “My daughter is five years old, and because I have to work eighty hours a week, I miss important moments with her. We’re fighting for a good contract, good benefits and good wages.”
Flagship workers know that one job should be enough to live in the city they work in, and they stand strong and united to demand respect from their employer. San Francisco is the most expensive city in the world because, while the right to profit is enshrined, the right to housing and a living wage is not.
Through unity and action, workers can force the bosses to make important concessions. Just seven months ago, close to 8,000 hotel workers—represented by UNITE HERE Local 2, the same union as Flagship workers—took on the biggest and richest hotel company in the world, the Marriott. They won huge wage increases, affordable health care and improved workloads in addition to important protections from sexual assault.
Chuk Ning, who works front-of-house at Flagship, summarized the power of worker unity in motion: “We’re organizing our co-workers to come together because that’s how we have power. We are the union. One person by themselves can’t do much, especially when the bosses gang up on us, pull us away from our co-workers to have separate meetings. We can’t have power as one person, but together, that’s when we see our bosses treat us with respect.”
The solidarity on the picket line was important for the next steps in the cafeteria workers struggle. Software engineers working for Facebook and Google came out strong to the picket line. Though engineering wages are significantly higher than those of cafeteria workers, capitalists also exploit engineers, and corporations actively work to drive down engineer wages. Corporate-sponsored scholarships promising people of color, as well as women, high wages if they gain engineering skills hide their true motive — to create a labor surplus where all engineering labor is more disposable and therefore cheaper for capitalists.
Capitalists want the profit generated from engineers’ labor not to go to engineers themselves, but to instead go to further enriching the already extremely wealthy bosses who own these companies. Our wages depend not on the quality, skill level, or quantity of our work, but on how much those who own the companies we work for think they can get away with stealing from the workers they employ. “All of our jobs depend on one another — the quality of my job depends on the quality of [Flagship workers’] jobs, and vice versa,” Google engineer Amr Gaber explained to Liberation News. “Because we already know that these billion-dollar companies have no problem taking in all the benefits and then pushing all the costs on everybody else.”
Concluding their first action with a resounding chant of “We’ll be back! We’ll be back,!” Flagship workers know that their fight is just beginning. We must struggle to win — and then unapologetically celebrate — every opportunity to force the bosses to give a tiny bit back of what they’ve taken from us. Stand with Flagship workers — one job should be enough!