Just a couple weeks ago, it looked like the controversial ordinance that lets Uber and Lyft drivers unionize was free and clear of its myriad of legal challengers, but now the landmark law is again on hold.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday afternoon issued an order to block the law until an appeal from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can be completed. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik dismissed the chamber’s lawsuit last month, for the second time, but the chamber quickly appealed.
“We believe the Court made the right decision,” said Brooke Steger, Uber general manager for the Pacific Northwest said in a statement. “The Court will now have the time to hear from all parties and carefully consider the unique questions raised by the City’s ordinance. There is a tremendous amount at stake in this case, namely the rights and livelihoods of thousands of drivers and the fate of a transportation option that many Seattle residents and visitors have come to rely on. We remain confident the Court will find the City overreached in its effort to protect taxi companies and help the Teamsters.”
The law, passed in 2015, gives drivers the ability to band together to negotiate pay rates and employment conditions, among other conditions. The law lets organizations that want to represent drivers get contact information from the ride-hailing companies to reach out to drivers and try and drum up support for collective bargaining.
Currently, these drivers are considered independent contractors and are not protected by traditional labor standards — including Seattle’s $15 per hour minimum wage law. They also do not have collective bargaining rights covered by the National Labor Relations Act.
The distinction of which drivers get to vote on collective bargaining continues to be the key issue for many opponents of the law. Drivers who signed up with their respective ride-hailing companies after Oct. 17 of last year, three months before the law went into effect in January, do not get a vote. Drivers also need to have made 52 trips starting or ending in Seattle during any three-month period in the year prior to the January onset date.
Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft favor giving every driver a vote, without the type of restrictions in Seattle’s rules. In a blog post last month, Lyft said that these rules would disenfranchise approximately 70 percent of its drivers, and for Uber, that number is about half.