Proposal: Initiate Dialogue for Developing Coalition Proposal to UUA GA Planning Committee to Boycott or Minimize Use of AirBNB in New Orleans during GA 2017
CONTEXT: The UUA General Assembly is going to be in New Orleans next June, bringing many thousands of people to the city — many of whom will be looking at AirBNB as an option for their lodging. Short-term rentals like AirBNB are technically illegal in most neighborhoods of New Orleans, but the city does not uphold this law. AirBNB is seen by many as a force of gentrification (the "pricing out" and displacement of communities of color and low income communities) because it shrinks an already bad market for low-income renters (link) (link) (link). Landlords are kicking out even model, dependable tenants so that they can make more money renting the space to tourists (link) (to the tune of $2,500 a month through AirBNB versus $750 a month from a long term renter).
Air BNB is also being identified as a target for the "boycott - divest - sanction" (BDS) movement for Palestinian liberation from Israeli military occupation (link), because houses in Israeli settlements are being listed on their website with no acknowledgement that they are disputed or recognized as illegal settlements, or that guests may have to go through multiple military checkpoints. This became of interest to web news/media in January (The Guardian) and February (New York Times) 2017 (both recommended).
Searches reveal that AirBNB has done little or nothing about listings in Israeli settlements: (Screenshots from Airbnb.com search done July 4, 2017 by Aly Tharp)
UU support and solidarity with the BDS movement and the struggle for Palestinian freedom were brought into question by a series of events at General Assembly 2016 — namely the off-script 3-to-5-minute anti-BDS speech by Rabbi Rick Jacobs (president of the Union for Reformed Judaism) during the General Assembly Welcoming Ceremony and the failure of a divestment resolution (link). The divestment resolution received a simple majority support, but not the 2/3 majority that was required for it to be passed. Many argued that the resolution was largely symbolic (and therefore unnecessary) because the UU investment portfolio already screens for avoiding companies implicit in human rights abuses. Organizing to minimize the usage of AirBNB during Unitarian Universalist gatherings has not been considered or advocated for yet.
Organizing to minimize AirBNB use in New Orleans would be a tangible means of taking action that connects and serves both the struggle for racial and economic justice in the United States and the struggle for ending the colonial occupation of Palestine.
It may even be possible to mobilize the UU community of New Orleans to have a bolstered home-stay option at GA next year as an alternative to short-term house rental websites that could even potentially put revenue towards supporting local, grassroots racial and economic justice organizations. This would require extensive conversation, collaboration and planning, but would be a significant success and accomplishment toward the goal of having GA 2017 be focused on justice.
RESOLVED: that the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice put time and energy towards seeking collaboration with other UU justice organizations to submit a join-proposal/recommendation to the UU Association to minimize or completely boycott the use of AirBNB during GA 2017 in New Orleans.
Organizations that we will reach out to for input and potential collaboration:
The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal,
NOLA cluster ministers and congregations,
Black Lives of UU Collective,
UUs for a Just Economic Community,
UUs for Justice in the Middle East,
Standing on the Side of Love / UU Association
Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries
UU Ministry for Earth,
UU Service Committee
UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory
A working group would be established to create a proposal and/or letter of recommendation. UUYACJ is seeking to begin and be a part of this working group, in collaboration with some or all of the organizations listed above. A maximum of 4 UUYACJ members would be involved in this working group. UUYACJ Network Coordinator will initiate conversation towards establishing this working group in July 2016 via email, phone and in person conversations. Collaboration would take place primarily through August, with a goal of submitting a joint letter of recommendation or proposal to the UUA by August 31st and no later than September 5th.
DECISION PROCESS: Unitarian Universalist Young Adults for Climate Justice is a consensus-based organization, with a core membership* that has blocking privileges (meaning anyone can raise serious concerns, but only a core member of the network can block a proposal from passing on the basis of their concerns). Participation is limited to persons aged 18-35 years old. Core members have participated in a minimum of three monthly organizing calls and participated in at least one of our programs (campaigns, trainings or workshops, book club, etc.).
UUYACJ network coordinator, Aly Tharp, will respond to all clarifying questions and concerns raised via email, copying everyone currently participating in the process and all core members of the UUYACJ to encourage group dialogue. If it becomes clear from this process that more conversation or a modified proposal is needed, we will organize to make that happen.