- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A major women’s group, with an endorsement from the Obama White House, is giving a thumbs-up to Facebook’s new rule that its vendors and contractors pay their employees $15 an hour, give them three weeks’ paid leave and provide a mandatory bonus for workers who don’t get paid parental leave.

The social media giant became the latest big corporate name to make a splash with higher pay and benefits for its workers and contractors. And the move comes amid a move backed by organized labor to sharply increase the minimum wage for workers in traditionally low-pay sectors such as fast-food restaurants and retailing.

Facebook’s extraordinary announcement marks the dawn of a new day in this country,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said Wednesday. “At a time when federal lawmakers are dragging their feet on fair and family-friendly workplace policies, corporate America is beginning to step forward to adopt these policies.”

President Obama’s spokesman praised the move Wednesday.

“We don’t see companies like Facebook doing this out of charity. They think it’s good for business. The president thinks it’s good for business, too,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Business trade groups took a dimmer view of the move, however, saying it’s not feasible for some companies to dictate policies to others. Facebook, in effect, is forcing vendors who do the company’s janitorial and service work to give their employees a pay raise.

The Facebook policy is “unusual,” according to Molly Day, vice president of public affairs at the National Small Business Association. It represents “a far more involved role in the employment policies of a vendor than what most large firms currently do,” Ms. Day said.

On Tuesday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the social media giant was “implementing a new set of standards on benefits” for contractors and vendors who do “a substantial amount of work with us.” Benefits from these vendors and contractors that have at least 25 employees should include a $15-an-hour minimum wage and at least 15 paid days for holidays, sick time and vacation annually.

Also, if the vendors and contractors’ employees don’t offer workers paid parental leave, these companies must provide a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents, said Ms. Sandberg.

These standards are already in place for some of the largest support teams at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and will be phased in at other companies later this year, she said.

The move comes amid growing criticism of sharp class divisions in Silicon Valley and other high-tech hubs, with high-skilled engineers and software designers earning top dollar while lesser-skilled workers fall farther behind.

Ms. Day, of the NSBA, said that experience shows setting thresholds can stymie growth and hiring. While a Facebook-sized company “may have the resources” to raise employees’ pay by 50 percent in a year and off paid leave and new-child benefits, “few small businesses” are similarly situated, she added.

Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his organization takes the position that “companies should be able to set their policies as they choose, and if there is an increased cost, that is their choice.”

“We draw the line, however, at believing that just because some companies that operate in distinct markets with their own dynamics and ranges for options go down this path, everyone must be required to follow the same approach,” Mr. Freedman said.

“These conditions are not universal, and trying to use certain companies, such as Facebook, as a template for the rest of the employer community would not be feasible,” he said.

⦁ Staff writer Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.

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