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Facebook mandates $15 minimum wage and paid leave for contract workers

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Facebook is beginning to make sure that its contractors receive important benefits, including a $15 minimum wage, 15 days paid leave, and financial support for the birth of a new child. The conditions apply to people who do "substantial work" for Facebook but are employed by another company, so long as that company is based in the US and has at least 25 employees working with Facebook. Presumably, if a company won't comply with these rules, Facebook won't work with them.

Microsoft, Google, and Apple have all started making similar changes

The changes are already in place for the "largest support teams" at Facebook's Menlo Park campus. "We will be working to implement this program with a broader set of vendors within the year," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, writes in a blog post.

Though the new standards don't cover everyone who does work with Facebook — nor do they match the benefits one would receive while actually working for Facebook — they're still an important step toward dealing with income inequality issues in the US and Silicon Valley. That large teams right inside of Facebook's headquarters didn't previously have these benefits illustrates the problem acutely: contract workers may spend their days right alongside full-time employees while receiving vastly different pay and benefits. While Facebook doesn't say what support teams have received the benefits, it's likely that they may apply to security, maintenance, and food workers.

The change isn't coming strictly from generosity — this is something contract workers have pushed for — but it's a cause starting to spread across Silicon Valley. Microsoft announced in March that it was mandating something similar: that contract workers get 15 days paid leave. Google and Apple have both started hiring security guards as full-time employees as well.

Facebook, like Microsoft, says that part of the reason for doing this is that research has shown that "adequate benefits" lead to a "happier and ultimately more productive workforce." Sandberg also writes that it's an important change for women because they make up "two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationally," making them "particularly affected by wage adjustments." The broader effect is that some of the biggest tech companies are now, essentially, advocating for better benefits for everyone. It's a basic start, but Facebook and Microsoft are big enough that they can convince the companies they're working with to get on board.