Airbnb is in the “final stages” of a deal with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), under which Airbnb would direct hosts to union-approved cleaning services that pay employees at least $15 per hour, a source close to the discussions tells Fast Company.
Despite its apparent good intentions, the deal faces backlash from labor unions, city governments, and housing activists. Members of the New York state senate assembly and New York City council, according to the Guardian, went so far as to send the SEIU president a letter that called the agreement “troubling.” Many of these same groups have championed the movement for the $15 minimum wage, so you might be wondering: Why the negative reaction?
Some see the deal as part of Airbnb’s strategy to subvert housing laws. As affordable housing advocates accuse Airbnb of contributing to rising real estate prices, Airbnb could claim it is bringing good jobs to cities. As with Airbnb’s efforts to remit taxes on host income, the agreement would further legitimize the company.
An SEIU spokesperson provided the following statement:
We actively and regularly engage in conversations with companies who are committed to doing right by their workforce by paying better wages and giving them a voice at work through their union. Airbnb is one such company, however, there is no formal relationship or agreement between SEIU and Airbnb.
Airbnb has already piloted a program similar to the one it would offer under terms of the SEIU deal. In New York City, its website presents hosts with an option to hire Cooperative Cleaning, whose cleaners are members of a local chapter of the SEIU and paid $15 per hour plus benefits. So far, more than 1,300 Airbnb listings in Brooklyn have purchased cleaning services through that pilot program.