Both stories explore the lives of workers that don’t often make headlines: the entry-level workers and contractors who are essential to the day-to-day functioning of companies like Google and Away. Time and again, we see how these workers are asked to make do with a lower standard of working life: lower pay, fewer benefits, worse offices, and so on.
“It’s like we have been brushed aside and forgotten,” Eric adds. In previous years, full-time monogramming artists were included in company-wide events, like Away’s annual holiday party. After the move to Brooklyn, the team was told they would have a separate event, though full-time artists could attend both.
Earlier this month, those artists realized the Google invite for the main holiday party had been removed from their calendars, and the team no longer had access to the company’s main Slack channels.
Holidays are when we are typically at our most generous, and so it always looks bad a company claws back even a perk as simple as a party invitation in December.
For the same reason, companies are generally loath to slash pay or plan layoffs around the holidays. And so I was surprised to learn recently that Pinterest was implementing cost-cutting measures this month that will affect its most vulnerable employees.
Like lots of companies, Pinterest gives employees the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off while paying them as if they had worked. Unlike lots of companies, Pinterest has traditionally extended that benefit to the contractors who work on the company’s culinary and maintenance staff, which the company calls HosPin.
This year, Pinterest decided to claw back that benefit. Contractors will still get their days off — they just won’t be paid for them, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. The company will pay contractors a nominal holiday bonus, but the money will fall well short of a week’s pay. Instead, Pinterest is offering the workers extra shifts during the shutdown week that they previously spent with their families.
The move will likely make life more difficult for contractors who once relied on that money to buy Christmas presents, pay rent, and purchase other necessities. And meanwhile, the full-time employees who might not even blink at the loss of four days’ pay will be paid to do nothing over the break just as they always have.
Unfortunately for some Pinterest contractors, life won’t be getting much brighter in the New Year. The company plans to change vendors for its San Francisco maintenance staff, The Verge has learned, a move that will result in more than half of existing positions being eliminated. Pinterest says employees who lose their jobs will be invited to apply at other vendor locations.
“Contractors at Pinterest are an integral part of our team and we work hard to make sure they are compensated accordingly,” the company told me in a statement. “This year, our HosPin contractors will be paid for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Although they will not be paid for the additional days the office is closed they will receive a bonus. Because of this change, we’re working with them to offer additional shifts throughout those days. Separately, we are not laying off any HosPin personnel, that is incorrect.”
Still, a good way to see what a company truly values is to see what it spends money on — and what it spends less money on. And the case at Pinterest this Christmas, as at so many companies, is that the costs of cost-cutting fall hardest on those least equipped to bear them.