Airbnb Union Deal Falls Flat After External Pressure

Connor D. Wolf | Reporter

Airbnb has worked to form a partnership with one of the biggest unions in the country, but external pressure has caused talks to fail, according to reports Thursday.

Airbnb hoped to mend the troubled relationship the sharing economy has had with unions for disregarding employment rules. It entered preliminary negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) but other unions were opposed. The potential deal reportedly fell through after a private talk between SEIU and Unite Here.

“Representatives from SEIU and [Unite Here] met and have agreed to find a common approach to protect and expand the stock of affordable housing in all communities across the country,” SEIU told The Guardian in a statement. “And to protect and preserve standards for workers in residential and hotel cleaning while also growing opportunities for these cleaners to improve their lives.”

SEIU originally hoped to leverage Airbnb to help create good union jobs and promote a living wage. Airbnb might have come out in support of the $15 minimum wage and made use of union cleaners as part of the deal. Unite Here countered the deal as just an excuse for Airbnb to get political cover.

“Earlier this week, we had a productive meeting with SEIU representatives, and it is our clear understanding that SEIU will not have a deal with Airbnb to represent housekeeping services,” Unite Here Spokeswoman Annemarie Strassel said in a statement to Skift. “We will continue to work with SEIU to ensure that workers across the hospitality industry have opportunities to have a voice at work.”

The sharing economy has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years in multiple industries. Airbnb connects homeowners to people looking to rent a room, while Uber and Lyft connect drivers to those in need of a ride. The model involves smartphone-based applications in which individuals can build their businesses.

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. Critics argues that while the model allows for more flexibility, it also leaves workers prone to harm since they are not protected under traditional employment standards.

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 traditional counterparts. There have also been lawsuits by workers claiming they’re being taken advantage of because they’re classified as contractors.

SEIU and Unite Here did not respond to request for further comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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