January 9, 2017
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Seattle in the spotlight as rule allowing unionization of Lyft/Uber set to take effect

On Jan. 17, a Seattle ordinance extending collective bargaining rights to drivers for Uber and Lyft, along with other transportation network company drivers, will take effect.

In December 2015, Seattle became the first U.S. city to give Uber and other contract drivers the power to unionize. The Seattle City Council voted unanimously for the decision, with support of some drivers; however, companies like Uber and Lyft were against the ordinance from the beginning.

Uber and Lyft opposed the ordinance, arguing that it violated federal labor and antitrust laws, which could lead to possible legal action against the city.

Ordinance 125132 allows outside organizations, such as the Teamsters, to represent drivers who partner with Uber, Lyft and like organizations. Uber has voiced their opposition of the ordinance, claiming that once the ordinance takers effect the unions will have the sole authority to speak and act on behalf of the drivers.

If given the power, unions could negotiate contract matters like limiting the number of hours a driver can work, which controls how they run their small business.

Although all Uber drivers could be required to pay Teamster dues, and Teamsters would represent all drivers, thousands of drivers would be denied a vote on whether to be represented, resulting in a minority of drivers making the decisions for everyone.

Uber’s Pacific Northwest general manager, Brooke Steger, was quoted in The Seattle Times saying, “The city’s draft rules give a minority of drivers the ability to make decisions that could jeopardize work opportunities for thousands of Seattleites. Denying so many Uber drivers a vote effectively silences their voices and gives an entrenched special interest group undue power over the entire driver community.”

Opponents will argue the ordinance restricts workers’ ability to work freely in the marketplace, and that unionization could hinder Uber and Lyft employee’s ability to “work at their own convenience.”

Proponents look at the ordinance as a continuance of advancing labor standards in the workplace, tying it to the $1.50 hike in minimum wage Washington employers saw on Jan. 1. The Times article also noted that some drivers, who supported the original bill in 2015, said that after expenses they make far less than the city’s minimum wage.

Uber has warned its riders that once the ordinance becomes active, riders will have longer wait times, less reliability and possible rate increases.

For more information on the ordinance, visit the City of Seattle website.

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