Published: Thu, April 06, 2017
Technology | By Timothy Carter

Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union temporarily blocked

Seattle law allowing ride-hailing union temporarily blocked

Uber officials criticized the screening process as "unfair and unjust" to drivers.

The law, passed in 2015, was slated to go into effect this week. The Chamber argued the law classified drivers as employees, when really they are independent contractors with no collective bargaining power.

While the court battle plays out, both sides had been moving forward, anticipating a possible eventual vote by drivers about whether they want to unionize or not.

Seattle's ordinance specified The Teamsters as the union to negotiate with the drivers, and that required Uber and Lyft as well as other ride-sharing companies to turn over confidential driver lists to the union, which the judge considered "likely to cause competitive injury that can not be repaired once the lists are released" as well as a threat to the business model itself. But the case faces a major setback following the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that many Uber drivers must make their claims against the company in individual arbitration, rather than in court as a group.

"There can be no doubt that ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft have, at a truly startling rate, created havoc in this industry using a business model that simply did not exist before its recent technological development". The judge said it was uncertain, though, whether state law allows the city's ordinance.

The U.S. Chamber filing argued that requiring Lyft, Uber and taxi companies turn over lists of drivers involved confidential and trade secret information. Turning over the list will cause "irreparable harm", the chamber argues, because it'll be forced to turn over personal identifying information of drivers and incur costs and expenses not completely covered by money damages.

Lasnik said the chamber had raised "serious questions that deserve careful, rigorous judicial attention, not a fast-tracked rush to judgment based on a date that has no extrinsic importance". So far, they've reached about 2,000 drivers, many of whom drive full-time and depend on the job for their livelihood, Gearhart says. As part of that suit, the Chamber asked the judge for a temporary restraining order to halt the law now, before that case is fully resolved. The law followed a successful bid in 2014 to increase Seattle's minimum wage to $15 per hour.

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