Extraordinary: Facebook Says ‘Not On Our Watch’ to Poverty Wages, Family Unfriendly Policies

by | May 13, 2015 | Fair Pay

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

Wow. Today’s announcement by Facebook marks the dawn of a new day in this country. At a time when federal lawmakers are dragging their feet on fair and family friendly workplace policies, corporate America is beginning to step up by adopting these policies voluntarily — in Facebook’s case, by saying that the company won’t be party to poverty wages and practices that force workers to choose between job and family when illness strikes or they welcome new babies.

By announcing that it will require its U.S. contractors and vendors with 25 or more employees to provide a $15 minimum hourly wage, three weeks of paid time off, and $4,000 in additional support for new parents who do not get paid parental leave, Facebook has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to women, workers and families. The move makes for an extraordinary moment in the effort to establish more fair and family friendly workplaces in this country — and makes this an extraordinary moment in history.

Facebook’s announcement means that a similar policy Microsoft announced in March — a remarkable and, at that time, unparalleled step forward — may have truly marked a new era of corporate responsibility with regard to our workplaces. Johnson & Johnson, Vodafone, and many other companies have recognized the need and expanded access to leave for their employees. We hope and expect that many more corporations will do the same very soon.

This may well be what a tipping point looks like, as businesses, as well as local and state lawmakers, increasingly step up to support working families. They recognize that unfair, unlivable wages and a lack of family friendly workplace policies have been undermining the financial security of America’s workers and families for much too long. And a mountain of data and millions of workers’ experiences show how grave the consequences can be for families, businesses and our economy.

Women who work full time, year round are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men — and mothers, who are both breadwinners and caregivers for most families, are paid just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. Women also make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers, and two-thirds of tipped workers (who are paid the sub-minimum wage of just $2.13 per hour). Just 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and nearly 40 percent of the private sector workforce can’t earn a single paid sick day.

Yet, despite the obvious need and demand for fair pay and paid leave policies, Congress has failed to take action. Proposals that would raise the federal minimum wage, create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, and establish a national paid sick days standard, have been introduced and are getting more attention than in the past, but prospects for passage this year are slim. Instead, forward-thinking state and local lawmakers — and businesses small and large — have been left to create a patchwork of policies to support workers and families.

It is especially impressive that Facebook hasn’t stopped at adopting family friendly policies for its own employees. With this announcement, it is telling contractors who support and profit from its work that they, too, must establish basic, supportive policies. In other words, the company will no longer tolerate poverty wages or workers being forced to choose between their jobs and their families because they don’t have paid leave. This “not on our watch” approach is corporate responsibility at its best.

Facebook’s announcement is groundbreaking and, we hope, pacesetting. Other employers, state and local lawmakers, and member of Congress should take note, and those standing in the way of progress should rethink their positions. Facebook’s action confirms that policies like fair pay and paid leave are good for businesses as well as workers.

It is time — past time — to make all the nation’s workplaces more fair and family friendly.

This is, indeed, a new day in America.