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Federal Court Puts Up Roadblock in Seattle’s Quest to Grant Uber and Lyft Drivers Union Organizing Rights

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A Seattle ordinance that grants drivers for Uber, Lyft and other similar ride-hailing companies the right to form unions remains on hold after an Aug. 29 federal court ruling. Back in 2015, Seattle passed a law allowing the drivers to organize and bargain over pay, benefits, and more. Because Uber and Lyft classify drivers as independent contractors, their drivers are not permitted to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act due to the fact that only “employees” (not contractors) may do so.

 

Uber and Lyft have opposed the ordinance and various groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have joined in their defense by filing legal challenges against the law. Those challenges, however, largely have been unsuccessful, at least to date.

 

On Aug. 29, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered a temporary stay against the ordinance and prevented certain disclosure requirements under the law from going into effect until that court can evaluate the legal arguments being raised by the Chamber of Commerce. To the extent the ordinance does become law, Seattle will be the first U.S. city to allow Uber and Lyft drivers to form unions. The implications could be huge for the so-called gig economy if other cities and/or states follow Seattle’s lead and pass similar legislation, whether it be related to companies like Uber and Lyft or other players.

 

David Pryzbylski

Recently recognized as one of the top under-40 labor lawyers in the nation by Law360, David J. Pryzbylski’s interest in labor relations began early in high school, having grown up next to several of the largest steel mills in the world. Today, David is a Partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Labor & Employment Department. Building on his interest in labor relations, he concentrates a large portion of his practice on assisting employers with traditional labor matters, including collective bargaining; work stoppages; arbitrations; union avoidance training and strategies; union representation elections; unfair labor practice charges; contract administration; and various other labor relations issues.

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