The Real Story on the “Sharing” Economy

Billion-dollar companies like AirBnB and Uber like to throw around the term “sharing economy” in an attempt to make us think that they’re progressive, give workers flexibility, and benefit the economy.

However, there is no actual “sharing” happening — these companies’ executives keep the big money and give scraps to those actually doing the work. So-called “sharing economy” companies classify their workers as “independent contractors”, which enables them to get around paying fair wages, and providing health benefits, basic protections and stability to workers. 

These multi-national companies also refuse to provide their workers with sick days, vacation days, or overtime. In addition, these workers don’t have access to state disability insurance, workers’ comp, and have no legal right to form a Union. This not the “sharing economy” this is the “exploitation economy”.

What We Can Do

As Teamsters we have legal protections, collective bargaining agreements, and strong representation on the job. We cannot let billionaire CEOs disguised as “progressives” hack away at the workers’ rights we have fought so hard to attain.

1. The first step is to delete apps like Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, and AirBnB from your phones and vow not to use them. Ever. Again. There are alternatives to these services. The app FlyWheel, for example, lets you hail a legit taxi cab.

2 . Educate your friends, family, and co-workers. Explain the following:

Ride Sharing Services

  • Executives of these billion-dollar “sharing economy” companies are the real ones who profit while they pass the cost of doing business on to workers
  • Uber and Lyft and other “ride share” services exploit their drivers when they skirt legal protections, and don’t provide benefits, sick leave, vacation, and  workers’ comp
  • These car services are trying to exempt themselves from regulations that protect consumers and drivers, creating safety issues and unfair competition
  • Uber, Lyft and the like, threaten the jobs of benefited employees, such as Local 856 members working for car rental companies and Teamster taxi drivers

Vacation Rental Apps like AirBnB

  • While tourist rentals may benefit some residents and visitors, neighbors and others affected need protections when these rentals cause problems. Cities like San Francisco currently have no ability to enforce tourist rental laws or penalize hosts and internet-based hosting services who break the law.
  • Vacation rental apps encourage large management companies to buy up residential properties and turn them into hotels in our neighborhoods, often in the face of longstanding local ordinances
  • Companies like AirBnB refuse to report the necessary data to our cities and towns so that they can collect appropriate taxes — taxes that pay for our roads, parks, and police and fire protection
  • Short-term rentals displace longterm housing — constricting the housing supply and driving up rents and housing costs for everyone

“Sharing” Commuter Buses

  • Companies like Leap & Chariot only cater to the “haves” and threaten to take away funding for public transportation systems that everyone can use
  • Most of these buses lack access for disabled passengers — in fact, Leap actually yanked out wheelchair ramps and disabled seating in at least four of its buses to make room for bar-style seating and leather armchairs
  • “Sharing” commuter buses are an attack on good middle class jobs, like those at the Golden Gate Transportation District, SamTrans, and the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority — all places where Local 856 members make their living to support their families

In General

  • “Exploitation Economy” jobs threaten all worker protections, and drive down wages and benefits for everyone
  • Billion-dollar businesses need to be held accountable to follow the law like the rest of us, pay their employees a fair wage and provide protections and benefits (Uber is estimated to be worth $50 billion, Lyft $2.5 billion, and AirBnB $24 billion)
  • If we don’t stand up for these workers, this “exploitation economy” will kill the middle class and take us back to a time when workers had no rights on the job

3. Find Out More
Want to know more? Check out the the following resources:

In General

National Employment Law Center: Rights On Demand: Ensuring Workplace Standards and Worker Security in the On-Demand Economy

SF Gate: Worker survey reveals challenges of sharing economy

US News & World Report: The Not-So-Nice Sharing Economy

Robert Reich: The Share-the-Scraps Economy

Vacation Rental Apps

SF Gate: Most AirBnB hots flout SF laws, city report

San Jose Mercury: Study: Airbnb landlords rent out properties full time

SF Chronicle Report: AirBnB’s Impact in San Francisco

Share Better SF: Protecting San Franciscans from the problems caused by “short-term hotel rentals”

Interactive Map: How is AirBnB really being used in and affecting the neighborhoods of your cities

Campos says AirBnB’s power may protect its records

48 Hills: AirBnB agrees to pay back taxes

Senator McGuire will continue vacation rental legislation in January

AirBnB, Rising Rent, and the Housing Crisis in Los Angeles

New York State Attorney General Report — Nearly 3 in 4 NYC AirBnB Rentals Illegal

“Ride Sharing” Apps

Who’s Driving You: A Comprehensive List of Incidents Involving Uber & Lyft

Market Watch: Why the Uber ruling shows the sharing economy is bunk

Fortune: How Uber is ruining your chances of getting a decent job

Commuter Buses

SF Gate: Commuter buses yanked disabled access for bar seating