The “Sharing Economy” Leaves Out Middle Class Jobs
Apps like AirBnB and Uber bad for Workers
By Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 856
Don’t the let the term “sharing economy” fool you. There is no sharing. It’s really just the 1 percent making money by stripping workers of the rights for which the labor movement has fought so hard to secure. Just because the business transactions of these so-called “sharing economy” companies, such as Uber and AirBnB, are accomplished using smartphone apps, doesn’t mean they’re progressive or new. Instead, these companies are simply recycling old ideas and taking us backwards to a time when workers had no rights on the job.
Much like Fed-Ex, which undermines Teamster jobs at UPS through the systematic use of a non-union outsourced workforce to deliver packages, these “sharing” economy companies are built on anti- worker business models that rely on the use of independent contractors. Unlike employees who are afforded many protections, independent contractors have no rights, no health benefits, no retirement secu- rity, no sick or vacation days, no workers’ comp, and no state disability insurance. Independent contractors also lack the legal right to form a union, so these workers have no seat at the bargaining table and no voice on the job.
These companies often brag about being “disruptors” in the economy, but what they are truly disrupting are basic worker protections such as the minimum wage, overtime, and FMLA. In doing so they are eroding the cornerstones of good middle class jobs, like healthcare and a pension.
“Sharing” economy companies are not just bad to their workers, they are also a real threat to existing middle-class Union jobs. Taxi replacements such as Uber, Lyft, and FlightCar threaten the jobs of Teamster taxi drivers and Local 856 members who work in the car rental industry. New “sharing economy” commuter bus companies such as Chariot and Leap are an uninhibited attack on the public transit system, including Teamster 856 members who work at SamTrans, Golden Gate Bridge, and Contra Costa Transit Authority. Illegal hotels facilitated by AirBnB that violate long-standing rent control and zoning laws undermine Bay Area hotels that employ 1,000 Teamster 856 members.
Big business shipped manufacturing jobs overseas. Now big money is trying to outsource good service sector jobs right under our nose by circumventing workers’ rights through the “sharing” economy. We need to fight back. While several labor backed lawsuits are still pending in the courts, we recently won a significant victory when the California Labor Commissioner ruled that Uber workers are employees. In addition, we continue to work with elected officials at the state level to push legislation that curtails the abuses of “sharing” economy and protects good middle class Union jobs.
In San Francisco, we are moving beyond the foundation set by recent Board of Supervisors ordinances and are using the initiative process to back a ballot measure that would force AirBnb to adhere to existing laws. We are also joining with labor and community partners to educate the public and inform the dialogue surrounding the independent contractor movement.
As long as these so-called “sharing” economy businesses continue to leave out the middle class by profiting through the use of an independent contractors workforce, we must stand together and refuse to share our hard-earned money with these abusive companies. Together we have strength in numbers and can make a difference.
What you can do to help
• Don’t use these “sharing” economy companies that undermine workers’ rights.
• Educate your family and friends about abuses of the “sharing” economy; using Uber and AirBnB are like shopping at Wal-Mart.
• Talk with your co-workers; minor cost savings are not worth hurting working families and threatening good Union jobs.
• Visit Teamsters856.org/RealStory for more info.