City Hall

Court Decisions Haven't Stopped Some Uber Drivers from Fighting Unionization

A small group of rideshare drivers continue to protest a law put on hold, but so far ultimately upheld in court.

By Hayat Norimine August 31, 2017

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A group of about 25 Uber and Lyft drivers—members of Drive Forward, a committee opposing unionization of independently contracted drivers—turned out Wednesday afternoon in front of the Seattle Municipal Tower to again protest the city's unionizing efforts, as a temporary block to the law in court brought more attention to Seattle's first-in-the-nation ride-sharing unionizing law. 

On Tuesday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction pending appeal. Judges granted a temporary order that allows more time for both parties to respond. Michael Ryan, assistant city attorney, said the city will be filing opposition to the Chamber on Tuesday, to which the Chamber will have two days to reply. From there, the court can either hold the argument or not issue a decision. 

"Nothing in the order that the court issued yesterday speaks to the merits of whether the Chamber's claims will or will not succeed," Ryan said. 

The Chamber in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is arguing that the ordinance violates federal anti-trust laws and the National Labor Relations Act by allowing independent contractors to unionize.

Meanwhile the protest Tuesday by drivers primarily focused on the rule-making process by the Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which was upheld by the King County Superior Court in March. But as the city waits for another lawsuit to make it through the court, there could be more complications to determine who gets a vote in unionizing.

The city determined that only more recent, regular drivers should have a vote as to whether they unionize, since they arguably have more at stake if the company violates labor rights. (Should a part-time driver's vote hold the same weight as a full-time driver who doesn't have another source of income?) But that forces the majority of drivers to unionize even if they oppose it, and leaves less flexibility for independent contractors who don't want to be represented by Teamsters 117, Drive Forward members argue. 

"It's about money, power, and control. ... I just thought that the court decisions were wrong," said Charles Jenkins, a Drive Forward board member. He said about 1,500 drivers are part of Drive Forward. "We work in the gig economy, and those are not gig economy laws."

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