The legal battle over the city of Seattle’s landmark law that lets drivers for services like Uber and Lyft unionize will continue after a federal appeals court kicked a lawsuit over the legislation back down to a lower court.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik last year to dismiss a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year, sending the case back down to U.S. District Court. The ordinance has been tied up in a variety of lawsuits for more than two years and hasn’t been able to go into effect.
Uber spokesman Caleb Weaver said in response to the ruling Friday that “the court’s decision is a win for rideshare drivers, riders, and the entire Seattle community.”
While Uber considers the decision a win, the appeals court did agree with Judge Lasnik’s dismissal of one of the two major arguments made by the chamber.
The lawsuit from the chamber is not the only legal hurdle in front of the unionization law. A suit brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, on behalf of 11 Uber and Lyft drivers who oppose Seattle’s collective bargaining ordinance, is also in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court has yet to rule on that case.
National Right to Work Foundation President, Mark Mix, released a statement on the Chamber ruling:
We are relieved that this ruling means that independent drivers who pick up rides through ride-sharing apps are no longer under imminent threat of being forced under a union monopoly and compelled to pay union fees just to pick up passengers within Seattle city limits. In addition to the anti-trust issues raised the Court of Appeals’ ruling, we continue to believe Seattle’s ridesharing forced unionization scheme runs afoul of federal labor law and the constitutional rights of the Uber and Lyft drivers represented by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. The next time Big Labor seeks to target ridesharing drivers for coercive unionization we will again be ready to aid drivers in protecting their rights against being forced into union ranks against their will.
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, 2016, three months before the law went into effect in January 2017, 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.
Here is the full ruling from the appeals court:
Opinion — Chamber v. Seattle (Ninth Circuit) by Nat Levy on Scribd