From Uber and Airbnb to the Senate – ‘Gig Economy Insider’ Replaces Dianne Feinstein

When Dianne Feinstein died in September, she left big shoes to fill. As it turns out, that vacancy ended up shining a light on the gig economy. Here’s the full story.

Big Shoes to Fill

Long-time California Senator Dianne Feinstein passed away in late September, opening up her congressional seat for the first time in more than 30 years.

At 90 years old, Feinstein had already made it be known that she was wrapping up her long career. She planned to serve out her latest term but not to run for re-election in 2024.

That advance notice had Democrats and Republicans alike starting to plan for who might be best suited to take on the open seat.

But the former San Francisco mayor died abruptly on the evening of September 28, just hours after casting her last vote on the Senate floor.

Suddenly, there was no time to plan.

Laphonza Butler

The burden to find a replacement for Feinstein post-haste fell on the shoulders of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

It didn’t take the Democrat long to figure out who he thought was right for the job.

On October 1, Newsom announced on his office’s home page that Laphonza Butler would take Feinstein’s seat and serve out the rest of her Senate term.

Butler may not be a household name across America, at least not yet, but she’s a bigwig in Democrat circles.

She’s especially near and dear to Newsom’s political heart.

Senior Adviser for Kamala Harris

That’s because Butler has helped guide the gubernatorial campaigns of both Newsom and former governor Jerry Brown.

Maybe even more significantly, Butler was a senior adviser for Kamala Harris during her 2020 campaign for president before she accepted Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his running mate.

Outside of the campaign arena, Butler has also sharpened her political chops as president of Emily’s List, a liberal political action committee aimed at getting pro-choice women elected to various offices.

But it’s Butler’s “extracurricular” involvement that raised eyebrows and made her different from most any other Senator serving today.

Advising Uber

In particular, Butler formerly served as president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California’s largest union.

Eventually, she left the healthcare union when she started her consulting career. And that led to her sliding to the other side of the negotiating table.

In her role as a partner with SCRB Strategies, Butler not only represented politicians like Harris and Newsom, she also helped a couple of side-gig giants navigate the new labor landscape.

First up was Uber, who Butler assisted in their negotiations and even arguments with drivers over working conditions and pay back in 2019.

Gig Economy Perspective

Then, in September of 2020, Butler actually left SCRB to take a position with Airbnb as their North American Policy Director.

While Butler may not have actually driven for Uber or rented out her home through Airbnb, her experiences surely give her a unique perspective.

As more and more Americans step away from, or are forced out of, traditional jobs and into the gig economy, Butler may be one of the few politicians who have any idea at all about what’s happening in the trenches.

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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Chris Allan