More on AirBnB and Uber: Or as a product of the Middle Class, damnit I hate the Middle Class!

Wait, Uber drivers make high enough wages (aren’t they independent contractors?) to put them in the middle class? Wealthy techies don’t vote? Jeez, what is going on here? Wacky news in the post election week.

As Uber and AirBnB continue to grow, they’ve also tasted blood (ours) from their recently policy battles, pushing off regulations for the time being in San Francisco, New York, etc. So, this is led them to get kinda silly in proclaiming their virtues to us peons. Take the recent San Francisco Chronicle article “Airbnb, Uber cast themselves as saviors of the middle class”. Hysterical right?

We are supposed to believe that renting your place out in your spare time, or driving people around for Uber will put you in the middle income tax bracket? Sure, if you are a professional landlord, who was already most likely middle class, and you are using AirBnB by taking apartments off the market in gentrifying neighborhoods and thus lessening the housing stock making areas more unaffordable, you might be doing okay financially. But, if the recently labor actions have shown us anything, a lot of Uber drivers (oh wait, they don’t work for Uber, they work for “themselves”) seem pretty unhappy with the way the company is treating them.

For companies that are valued in the billions of dollars, they don’t seem to be doing much “sharing” back with their users and those that actually do the work and provide everything, other than a tech platform. Hell, they can’t even seem to share with Vets on Veteran’s Day without making some profit, in the case of Uber. In fact, all this money that users generated for these types of companies seem to be going right back into their efforts to continue gentrification efforts and fouting labor policy by creating political cover through spending on ads and lobbying for favorable policy.

But, to make the “sharing economy” truly a sharing place that creates real value for everyday people, there are positive efforts underway. One such effort is the upcoming Platform Cooperativism conference in New York City this coming weekend, Nov.13–15. As their website explains, “The seeds are being planted for a new kind of online economy. For all the wonders the Internet brings us, it is dominated by an economics of monopoly, extraction, and surveillance. Ordinary users retain little control over their personal data, and the digital workplace is creeping into every corner of workers’ lives. Online platforms often exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities in society, even while promising to be the great equalizers. Could the Internet be owned and governed differently? What if Uber drivers could set up their own platform, or if cities could control their own version of Airbnb? Can Silicon Alley do things more democratically than Silicon Valley? What are the prospects for platform cooperativism?

On November 13 and 14, the New School in New York City will host a coming-out party for the cooperative Internet, built of platforms owned and governed by the people who rely on them. The program will include discussion sessions, screenings, monologues, legal hacks, workshops, and dialogues, as well as a showcase of projects, both conceptual and actual, under the purview of celebrity judges. We’ll learn from coders and worker cooperatives, scholars and designers. Together, we’ll put their lessons to work as we work toward usable apps and structural economic change. This is your chance to get on the ground floor of the next Internet, and to help make it a reality.”

Now that I like! There have already been some great pieces on how a future Uber could be structured as a worker owned cooperative via city policy, but the larger this movement builds and the more it really does on the ground, the better.

I hope one day, instead of AirBnB, we have new platforms that don’t exploiting people in urban areas but do the positive things that an AirBnB type platform does well. Up with the user created and ran platforms of our own, keeping real wealth for everyday people and their community. If the techies aren’t voting in city elections, then we damn well need to be and educating others to do the same and for the right things. Hell, maybe we can even convince the techies to vote and support this kinda stuff as well….Here’s hoping.