1. City council member Mike O’Brien is bringing his big deal Uber and Lyft legislation to full council today. The legislation, which says the so-called gig economy drivers have the right to organize, is nationally significant because it would be the first to give the high-profile contract drivers collective bargaining rights.
O’Brien ushered his legislation through the council’s finance committee in early October with a unanimous vote.
The legislation is in a legal gray area because the National Labor Relations Board does not cover contract workers; there’s also a legal precedent preventing contract workers from price fixing under antitrust law.
There is a new attorney on the council now, recently-elected at-large council member Lorena González. She made her position on the issue clear during the election. She told me last September that she supported O’Brien’s ride share driver legislation.
“These are how movements get built regardless of whether it’s legal or not,” she said. “Really what we’re looking at is whether independent contractors have the right to unionize and negotiate their own working conditions. They are not covered by the Labor Relations Act. [So] We won’t know unless we push the envelope on this and this is an area worth pushing the envelope.”
González also signed Working Washington’s online petition during the fall campaign supporting O'Brien's legislation.
I have a message in to the mayor Ed Murray; in 2014, Murray rejected council legislation that put caps on ride share divers. He eventually worked out a compromise between taxi drivers and ride share drivers that eliminated the the caps.
2. O'Brien certainly struck a different note than Murray on another headline issue: the climate change accord reached this weekend in Paris.
Joining 300 protesters from groups such as the Sierra Club, 350 Seattle, GotGreen?, and the Shell No Action Council in downtown Seattle in the rain on Saturday after the deal was announced, O'Brien said the specific target of the accord—limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the level from about 150 years ago (pre-industrial revolution), is "not enough to save us."
H went on: "We have not committed enough to help the least developed nations who did nothing to create the catastrophe that they will bear the brunt of." (Scientists agree, saying the goal only goes half as far as it needs to in order to prevent the environment from locking in to a point of no return.)
As for his part, Mayor Murray said: “Today’s Paris Agreement is an historic step forward in the global effort to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It recognizes that around the world, populations that have contributed the least to this problem will unfairly bear the greatest burden. This global accord is a significant milestone, but it will require local leadership in our cities to fully realize its goals. As I have said before, climate change is much more than an economic or environmental challenge. Fundamentally, it is an issue of social justice. If we are leaving people behind, we are not succeeding. We must do more to address this inequity."
Representatives of some developing nations expressed consternation. Poorer countries had pushed for a legally binding provision requiring that rich countries appropriate a minimum of at least $100 billion a year to help them mitigate and adapt to the ravages of climate change. In the final deal, that $100 billion figure appears only in a preamble, not in the legally binding portion of the agreement.
“We’ve always said that it was important that the $100 billion was anchored in the agreement,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the incoming leader of a coalition known as the Least Developed Countries coalition. In the end, though, they let it go.
3. Mayor Murray is taking a tougher lefty stance, though, in response to the UW's downtown development project, the 10-acre Rainier Square space between University and Union and 4th and 5th; UW is planning to develop a hotel, office space, underground parking, residential units, and 91,000 square feet of retail.
Quirks in the property layout allowed UW to get extra development space without having to meet commensurate affordable housing requirements to the tune of "millions of dollars," Murray complained in a December 11 letter to UW president Ana Mari Cauce.
"This agreement...was negotiated by a prior administration, and is not something I would have supported without also initiating a conversation about future UW contributions toward affordable housing production...
"I believe it is inappropriate for UW—as one of the largest employers in Seattle...to reduce its payment toward affordable housing production to a level below what any other developer would have to provide for a similar project downtown...As far as I am concerned, UW should contribute the same amount it would have paid..."