Elizabeth Warren Takes Marching Order From Unions

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has carefully crafted an image of a fearless warrior fighting on behalf of the working class, protecting them from the greedy big businesses that put profits above consumers. Her crusades against Wall Street and big money donors are well documented and frequent. However, she has recently set her sights on Airbnb, casting serious doubt on her sincerity and commitment to defending the little guy, and raising concerns that she is siding with labor unions over consumers.

Airbnb is one of the most popular 21st century tech tools in the on-demand economy. With a presence in over 191 countries, Airbnb has proven to be an invaluable source of economic activity for communities and income for the working class. Across the world, Airbnb has boosted economic growth and incomes of millions of families.

But providing tangible and positive economic benefits to the working class, as well as an innovative service to consumers, is not enough to keep Sen. Warren from summoning regulators and her vast network of followers to target Airbnb.

In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Sen. Warren, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), aired concerns over Airbnb potentially discriminating against minorities and discouraging affordable housing. 

Airbnb openly promotes having more than 2 million listings worldwide, across more than 191 countries. The share of rentals in any given American city is likely minimal in the local property market. A bigger impediment to affordable housing is the increasing demand for rental properties, a post-financial crisis phenomenon underway before Airbnb became a huge success.

In Boston, for example, Airbnb boosted the local economy by an estimated $51 million in 2014. And according to the company, “Airbnb hosts come from diverse income brackets, with a significant portion below median household income.” The ability for these hosts to rent out their property is not only helping the local economy, but also helping these hosts and their families make ends meet, support local businesses, and potentially save for retirement.

If individual allegations of racial discrimination are true, or if there are any violations of the law by hosts, Airbnb should step in and hold the individual hosts accountable. And there are signs pointing to them doing that.

In early June, Airbnb took steps to ensure racial discrimination and bias doesn’t take place within their community of hosts. Airbnb even enlisted former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help craft what they are dubbing as a “world-class anti-discrimination policy.”

But Sen. Warren’s wholesale assault on the ability for people to use the service is a continuance of her efforts to attack any innovative service that allow entrepreneurs and the free market to determine what services are available to consumers.

It is more likely Sen. Warren is not personally opposed to Airbnb and similar services; rather, she is standing up for the labor unions that have bankrolled her campaigns and policy initiatives.

The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO (better known as The Hotel Trades Council) successfully lobbied the Democratic-controlled New York Assembly to impose industry-crippling fines on short-term rentals. The bill was tailor-made to harm Airbnb and drive them out of New York.

Members of the New York Assembly offered a number of absurd reasons as to why this law was necessary. “Every night there could be different person sleeping in the next apartment and it shatters that sense of community in the building. It also can be dangerous,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) who also described herself as “elated” when the measure passed.

But the reality is it had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with protecting the political activists and labor unions.

The unions supportive of the hotel industry view Airbnb as a threat to their political influence. If more consumers choose Airbnb rentals over traditional hotel rooms, less money will go to the big hotels, and consequently less money goes to the unions to be used for political activities.

The senators’ letter to the FTC signals the beginning of federal regulators going after another popular on-demand economy technology. It’s already happening at the local level in San Francisco, New York and other major American cities.

But as the fight against ridesharing companies has proven, working-class consumers want more choice and innovation in the economy. It’s up to Elizabeth Warren, the unions and regulators to adapt to the new reality.


Diego Sanchez Gallardo is the director of Hispanic Initiatives for the US Consumer Coalition, a consumer advocacy organization that promotes expanded consumer choice, responsible regulation of consumer-facing industries, fair market conditions and consumer freedom.


Tech Brief: SEC Reveals It Was Hacked Last Year

The Securities and Exchange Commission said a computer system used for storing documents filed by publicly traded companies had been hacked last year. The cyberattack was first detected by the regulator last year, but the SEC said it had learned only last month that the compromised information may have been used in illegal stock trades.

Tech Brief: 3 House Democrats Call for FCC Investigation of Sputnik

Three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Sputnik, a news organization established by a Russian state-owned news agency, violated the public interest standard of its broadcast license with its radio show. Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to follow up on a New York Times Magazine report that suggested the organization used U.S. airwaves to broadcast programming aimed at influencing the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Tech Brief: FCC Requests More Information on Sinclair-Tribune Merger

The Federal Communications Commission asked Sinclair Broadcast Group to provide more information on its proposal to acquire Tribune Media Co., a merger currently pending FCC approval. The FCC’s Media Bureau chief wrote a letter to Sinclair asking the telecommunications company to present further information about the size of its current audience, as well as the steps the company plans to take to stay below the ownership cap.

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Agrees to Testify Before House Committee

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee invited Kaspersky Lab Inc. co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky to testify, along with other private and U.S. government cybersecurity experts, before the panel on Sept. 27, and he accepted the invitation — pending the acquisition of an expedited visa. The Moscow-based company, which makes antivirus software, is on the defensive from allegations it aids Russian espionage efforts.

Tech Brief: Judges Rule Uber-Waymo Case Will Go to Trial, Not Arbitration

A panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Uber Technologies Inc.’s appeal request for its legal dispute with Waymo LLC to move to private arbitration and ruled a public trial will proceed as scheduled in October. The court also ruled that Uber must hand over a crucial report for Waymo’s case that could hold evidence Uber stole trade secrets related to the development of self-driving cars.

Tech Brief: House Democrats Request Answers From Equifax on Data Breach

Led by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), all 24 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Equifax Inc. CEO Richard Smith expressing concerns that it took more than a month for the company to reveal the massive data breach it said took place from mid-May through July, and about the scale and extent of the breach. The signers asked Smith to address these concerns prior to a planned hearing on the issue.

Tech Brief: Apple Expected to Unveil Premium Model ‘iPhone X’ Today

Apple Inc. plans to premiere the so-called iPhone X with a starting price of $999.00 at a 10th anniversary iPhone event on Tuesday, joining Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd in the market for luxury smartphones. In addition to the iPhone X, which uses infrared facial recognition to unlock the device, Apple is also expected to release cheaper models of the iPhone and an updated Apple Watch, with self-contained connect

Tech Brief: Two House Committees Call Hearings on Equifax Data Breach

Equifax Ltd. could be examined by up to three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives after a breach at the company exposed the data of roughly 143 million people. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) of the Financial Services Committee and Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) of the Energy and Commerce Committee announced hearings, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called for an investigation by the Judiciary Committee.

Load More