Morning Fizz

After Raucous Hearing Last Week, Council Majority Doubles Down on Pro-Union Position for Uber Drivers

Council sends letter to mayor favoring full-time driver status in Uber debate and Jayapal to hold Seattle Center hate free Washington event.

By Josh Feit December 15, 2016

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 1. Five city council members think the standard that qualifies an Uber driver to participate in a unionization vote should be higher than the one recommended by the mayor’s team. Uber already thought the mayor’s proposal was too high, arguing that it exclude thousands of part-timers from participating. (Uber wants more drivers to vote, labor suspects, because having a bigger pool including part time drivers will likely divide and conquer the push for a union. The Teamsters ar more interested in having full-timers at the bargaining table.)

Here’s the deal: Last week, hundreds of Uber drivers showed up at city hall—half of them by my count to speak out against a city proposal that set the guidelines for unionization and half in support. The guidelines say to be eligible to vote on unionization a driver must have done 52 rides over three months in the year prior to the vote. The drivers who spoke against the idea, organized by Uber and decked out with professional signs and T-shirts that said “#EveryDriverCounts,” testified that thousands of part-timers would be left out of that vote. Most of those drivers also spoke out against unionization itself as well. The drivers in favor of the guidelines, and conversely, pro-union and organized by the Teamsters, didn’t have a problem with the proposed rules. A Teamster rep who also spoke offered a compromise saying perhaps all drivers could vote if the votes were weighted in favor of drivers who drove more.

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Five city council members, including council member Mike O’Brien, the sponsor of the legislation that would allow Uber drivers to unionize, have since sent a letter to Mayor Ed Murray. Their position? The number of trips a driver provides should be higher. They believe the number should be based on older taxi cab industry data that reflects the for-hire ride industry prior to the arrival of transportation network companies like Uber.

The letter, also signed by council president Bruce Harrell (the only council member who was at the hearing), Sally Bagshaw, Lisa Herbold, and Kshama Sawant, says:

“We strongly believe that use of data on the industry post the disruptive arrival of the TNCs, on the face of it, problematic if the desire is to develop a profile of a ‘full-time’ driver in a normal industry.”

 Uber responded to the council letter, with a letter of their own to the mayor. They write:

Councilmembers Harrell, O’Brien, Bagshaw, Herbold, and Sawant have sent a letter outlining an equally harmful, last-minute proposal, that would result in several thousand more drivers being denied a voice beyond those already excluded by the current draft rules. While the letter seems to deliberately avoid outlining specific requirements these Council Members believe should define a Qualified Driver, nearly tripling the trip threshold requirements would dramatically increase the number of drivers denied a vote on whether to be represented.

The council recommends a standard based on 63 trips a week, which is a threefold increase over the standard in the current proposal.

2. Looking for proof that Seattle’s new U.S. representative in congress, U.S. representative-elect Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7), represents a radical change from retiring 80-year-old (this month) congressman Jim McDermott? After her big win, Jayapal got a shout out from Teen Vogue.

The cool magazine, which surprised the clueless world by publishing an essay earlier this month breaking down Trump’s brand of authoritarianism, wrote up Jayapal for being the first Indian-American woman elected to congress.

The magazine was right to hype Jayapal as a “bold progressive fighter” as well.

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Next week, Jayapal, the founder of the immigrants’ rights group OneAmerica, is holding an event at Seattle center—the same place she held the kickoff to OneAmerica 15 years ago the week after 9/11 when the group debuted as Hate Free Zone to protest attacks on Muslims. Monday's event, recognizing the Trump-era's similarities to post-9/11 racism, will call for a “Hate free Washington.”

3. Marty Kaplan, the Queen Anne Community Council leader who filed the successful challenge to the city’s decision to move forward with a proposal that would loosen restrictions on backyard cottages without doing further environmental review, felt duped by KUOW when went in for an interview yesterday.

Kaplan, whose appeal registered disbelief that the city would want to increase density in single-family neighborhoods with more backyard cottages without studying the impacts on infrastructure and parking further, for example, was offended that KOUW host Bill Radke billed him as a NIMBY—“Not in My Backyard.”

In a quick email to his supporters after the interview, he wrote:

The ‘conversation’ was a bit different from what I expected, casted as I entered the studio as a debate between Laura Bernstein who described herself and representing YIMBY’s, and me, who I guess Bill and Laura considered a NIMBY.  Yah right!

You can listen to the show here.

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