Airbnb Willfully Enters Union Negotiations, Gets Attacked By Labor Activists

Connor D. Wolf | Reporter

The sharing-economy venture Airbnb has worked to form a partnership with the labor movement, but some union activists are dead set against any deal, according to Monday reports.

The sharing-economy involves smartphone-based applications in which individuals can build their business-like ventures. It has faced opposition from the labor movement for disregarding established employment rules. Airbnb has attempted to bridge that gap by negotiating with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), though some union activists are still very much opposed.

“We are appalled by reports that SEIU is partnering with Airbnb,” Unite Here Spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel told The Guardian. “A company that has destroyed communities by driving up housing costs and killing good hotel jobs in urban markets across North America.”

There are many types of sharing-economy applications. Airbnb connects homeowners to people looking to rent a room, while Uber and Lyft connects drivers to those in need of a ride. Consumers have an easier way to access goods and services while workers become empowered to choose their own hours and gain more flexibility in how they work.

“As our community continues to grow, we want to find ways to further extend the economic benefits of home sharing to as many people as possible,” Airbnb Spokesman Christopher Nulty said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “To that end, we have been engaged in conversations with organizations and community leaders about how to best help working families find solutions to economic inequality.”

Nulty added that the goal will be to leverage Airbnb to help create good union jobs and promote a living wage. Airbnb, for instance, might come out in support of the $15 minimum wage and make use of union cleaners as part of the deal — Strassel counters this as an attempt to get political cover.

“Airbnb has shown a blatant disregard for city and state laws, has refused to cooperate with government agencies, and turns a blind eye to the fact that its business model exacerbates the affordable housing crisis,” Strassel said. “A partnership with SEIU does little more than give political cover to Airbnb.”

The sharing-economy has avoided many laws and workplace regulations because it utilizes contractors as opposed to employees. Uber drivers, for instance, aren’t employees of the company but rather independent workers that utilize the app. Unions say workers are being robbed of the benefits they deserve when they are classified as contractors instead of employees.

Seattle lawmakers proposed a bill last year that will force sharing-economy ventures to treat their contractors like employees. Federal labor agencies have also worked to undermine the model and make it more like its traditional counterparts. There have also been lawsuits by workers claiming they’re being taken advantage of because they’re classified as contractors.

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