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Seattle votes unanimously to give Uber, Lyft drivers the right to unionize

Neither Uber nor Lyft was particularly happy with this decision.


Josh Katzowitz


A recent survey, paid for by Uber, showed that the vast majority of its drivers are happy working for the company, though some contractors said that the survey might not quite be as sunny as Uber portrays. Some drivers even talked about a culture of fear when responding to Uber’s questions on the survey.

But if Uber drivers are not pleased with their working conditions—and seriously, read this story, because there might be quite a few reasons—those who live in Seattle have the beginnings of a solution.

That’s because, as the Associated Press reports, the city of Seattle has given drivers for Uber, Lyft, and cab drivers the right to unionize, becoming the first city in the country that allows drivers to collectively bargain. Now those for-hire vehicle drivers can team up with others to negotiate their salaries and working conditions, even though, as Gizmodo points out, the drivers will continue to be considered independent contractors and not employees.

“It’s clear the nature of work has shifted in part because of technology and in part because there are corporations that don’t like labor protections,” Mike O’Brien, the Seattle City Council member who introduced the legislation, told the New York Times. “What is that reality going to look like? I believe there should be some solutions.”

Not surprisingly, neither Lyft nor Uber seemed thrilled with the City Council’s unanimous decision.

“Lyft provides consumers with convenient and affordable transportation, and drivers with the ability to make money in their free time,” Lyft told Gizmodo via email. “Lyft drivers are entirely in control of where or when they work, and this flexibility is exactly why the service is so popular with people looking to make extra income. Unfortunately, the ordinance passed today threatens the privacy of drivers, imposes substantial costs on passengers and the City, and conflicts with longstanding federal law. We urge the Mayor and full Council to reconsider this legislation and listen to the voices of their constituents who choose to drive with Lyft because of the flexible economic opportunity it offers.”

Said Uber in a statement: “Uber is creating new opportunities for many people to earn a better living on their own time and their own terms.”

This is only the latest in a series of potential uprisings by Uber drivers. In September, three drivers who said they should be considered full-time employees were granted class-action lawsuit status, and in June, one Uber driver actually was considered by the state of California to be an employee. (Uber has since appealed the decision.)

“This bill was only introduced out of necessity after witnessing how little power drivers themselves had in working for a living wage,” O’Brien said, via the Seattle Times. “I am proud Seattle is continuing to lead the nation in advancing labor standards for our workers.”

H/T Gizmodo | Photo via Alexander Torrenegra/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

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