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Rally faults Meta’s treatment of nontech workers during cutbacks in Seattle

By The Seattle Times
Published: March 31, 2023, 7:36am

SEATTLE —Dozens of food service employees working at Facebook parent company Meta’s Seattle offices took to the streets Thursday to protest threatened layoffs and lackluster severance payments.

Cooks and other workers employed by contractor Flagship who served employees at Meta’s South Lake Union buildings joined a national day of action highlighting what they describe as uncertainty, layoffs and planned wage cuts in the wake of massive layoffs at Meta.

Protesters gathered at 3 p.m. outside Meta’s offices at Eighth Avenue North and Thomas Street before marching to Denny Park, where they held a rally.

In a statement Thursday, Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton noted that Meta continued has paid its vendors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic “to ensure every one of their workers assigned to a Meta office was paid even if they couldn’t do their jobs from home.”

“Over the last year, as we returned to the office, we’ve adjusted on-site services and amenities to better reflect the needs of our distributed workforce while also continuing to focus on efficiency and spending discipline,” Clayton said.

Meta announced this month that it planned to cut 10,000 employees in a monthslong restructuring push, the company’s second since late last year. An earlier series of layoffs saw the company lay off 726 workers in Seattle and Bellevue, slashing by 8% its Washington workforce of about 8,800. The company also began leasing out space it had acquired in several Seattle-area buildings.

Organizers of Thursday’s protest, including the Unite Here Local 8 labor union, contend low-wage contract workers at Meta are receiving far less generous severance payments than the company’s tech professionals. Food service workers who have been laid off, the organizers say, have been provided eight weeks of severance, half of what the people they serve are receiving.

Speaking before Thursday’s rally, prep cook Lisa Young said she worries a layoff would put her badly behind on her bills, including her $1,950-a-month rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Renton. She faulted Meta for not insisting on equitable severance payments for nontech employees.

“I think Meta only cares about tech people,” Young said. “They don’t care about the other people that keep this building and this company going.”

Meta and Flagship did not immediately return requests for comment.