Some cheer, some hiss, but one thing is for sure: Uber will transform Oakland, and our city will become ground zero, not only for a discussion of growth and displacement, but also for the pitfalls of the “sharing economy.”
This year, my partner and I needed to move out of our one-bedroom place to make room for our growing family. We were priced out of our neighborhood. It was hard to say goodbye to the home that we decided to get married in, and to bring our newborn son into.
A few months later, the nonprofit I work for was forced to move because our building was sold and there was a dramatic rent increase. Ironically, our mission is to ensure that low-income people of color make enough money so that they can stay in their homes. It will be sad to say goodbye to the home in which we’ve gathered community members, shared struggles, and raised wages for tens of thousands of people.
As the sharing economy has rapidly expanded, many Bay Area consumers have rejoiced that there are more choices, as well as flexibility for workers. But as we welcome innovation, let’s also address new challenges. Many “on demand” companies classify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees. They do not have to pay the minimum wage or provide benefits, which leaves many struggling to pay the bills.
In short, nonprofits, like the low-income people we support, are being pushed out of Oakland. And with the announcement of Uber moving in, income inequality will be exacerbated with more poverty-wage jobs.
Oakland has a deeply rooted sense of community and a legacy for caring for those in need. We now must create policies that ensure that everyone in our community truly benefits and receives their fair share. Let’s follow the example of places like Seattle, where city leaders are crafting legislation to allow “on-demand” workers to bargain collectively, or Oregon, where regulators ruled that Uber drivers are employees.
Oakland’s elected leaders, businesses, nonprofits, unions, and community members need to come together and harness our ingenuity and make the new sharing economy an economy that benefits us all. We call on our city leaders to follow through on their commitment to ensure Uber and similar companies help make Oakland a more equitable city by creating new rules for the housing and job market, so that the sharing economy provides a fair share to Oakland’s workers and residents.