Friday, 26 May, 2017

Judge puts on hold Seattle law allowing a ride-hailing union

Seattle's Rideshare Union Law Put On Hold By Federal Judge Uber drivers in Seattle blocked from unionizing after federal judge's temporary ruling
Cecilia Poole | 06 April, 2017, 01:50

"The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration as to whether the city's well-meaning ordinance can survive the scrutiny our laws require". Critics charge that Uber and Lyft reap a financial windfall by treating its drivers as contractors and thus avoiding higher costs such as paying benefits, overtime and insurance.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik granted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a temporary restraining order against requiring companies from turning over driver contact information to the Teamsters Local 117, as was required by April 3 under the new law.

"The city is also encouraged that the court did not find merit in the challenges to the ordinance under federal labor law", she added.

The fight over whether Uber and Lyft drivers can unionize is part of a larger conflict over how sharing economy companies treat their workforce.

Seattle city attorneys argued in court last week that independent contractors - Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers in this circumstance - are more like workers than they are supervisors and that the city has the authority to let them unionize, even if they're not covered by the NLRA.

Saying the city's ordinance would likely disrupt the ride-hailing companies' businesses in "fundamental and irreparable ways", Lasnik ruled that it should be blocked while the case is decided.

"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", Lasnik wrote in his decision (PDF).

State officials say more than 8,000 people who applied to drive for ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft, in MA have failed a required background check. Lasnik said in his ruling.

According to the law's implementation timeline, companies must turn over their drivers' contact information to the union early next month. "Whether existing state law covers, or was meant to cover, the sort of regulation the city attempts through the ordinance is far from clear". In statements, representatives for Uber, Lyft and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised the injunction, noting the judge's concerns about the outstanding legal questions.

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