The Crucifixion of WeWork
As I sat down to lunch today I saw the story break about WeWork, the co-working (and soon, potentially co-living) startup based in NYC. The gist of the story, as BuzzFeed would have you believe, is that the people who have been cleaning the WeWork offices were fired, quite conveniently after there was a request from the workers to be given raises up to union wage standards.
Seems an innocent enough request, no? So why the firing? The problem, unfortunately, is that we don’t know.
BuzzFeed would have you believe that WeWork is turning its back on underpaid immigrant workers, even as the company raises funding at a $10 billion valuation. But the weak links of the story are buried deep in the text:
They are employed by a contractor, Commercial Building Maintenance (CBM), which pays cleaners as little as $10 an hour, less than half the standard wage for the majority of New York City’s janitors, who are unionized. WeWork said CBM terminated its contract with the company about a week after the first protest by cleaners. CBM has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Ah there we go. So this isn’t really a story about WeWork, the $10 billion company, this is a story about CBM. Read this again:
WeWork said CBM terminated its contract with the company…
CBM is, as far as we know at this point, the party at fault for the workers who are no longer cleaning the WeWork offices. Though the workers are asking WeWork to hire them back, either directly or through whatever service the startup ends up using in the future, the fact remains that this story isn’t about WeWork.
WeWork CEO Adam Neumann is being flamed in the article for turning his back on the workers, but the fact of the matter is that the workers were told how to go about filing their petition and cornering the CEO wasn’t the method to get it done. In fact, at this size of company, there’s a good chance that Neumann has absolutely no idea what’s happened up to this point when it comes to who cleans the offices. Facing facts, he has more important things on which he should be spending his time.
Now the takeaways:
1 - WeWork just got (albeit unfairly) tossed into a crisis. It is not responding appropriately. Let’s hope that they have a good Corp Comms or internal PR person to handle this crapstorm.
2 - The media will always want to set the narrative for a company. In this case, the narrative is one of a second tech bubble, unfair labor practices and whatever other faux outrage can be drummed up.
3 - WeWork should relish the fact that they’re a target. It means that they’re doing something right.
4 - I didn’t link to the BuzzFeed piece because it is trash. Despite the company’s most valiant efforts to move into legitimate news, it still relies on half-stories and clickbait headlines in order to drive page views.