Uber Sues Seattle Over Collective Bargaining Law

SEATTLE (CN) — In a challenge to the first-in-the nation law allowing ride-hailing drivers to collectively bargain, Uber sued Seattle this week, claiming the ordinance violates labor laws and was unfairly crafted.

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved the ordinance in December 2015. It took effect in January and allowed a year for developing guidelines for unionization. The rules were announced in December and took effect Tuesday, the day Uber sued the city in King County Court.

Under the final rules, only drivers who have been employed for the past 90 days and made 52 or more trips to, from or within Seattle during any three-month period in the past year can vote on unionization issues.

Uber, Lyft and some drivers argued that all drivers should get a say in collective bargaining.  Others, including Teamsters Local 117, want only full-time employees to be able to vote.

Uber’s corporate parent, Rasier LLC, says in its lawsuit that the city “followed an arbitrary and capricious piecemeal rulemaking process and denied the public a meaningful opportunity to comment.” It claims that the rules are incomplete, lack checks and balances and guidance for stakeholders and “undermine the goals of the ordinance.”

The voter requirements violate the Labor Relations Act and will silence “the voices of thousands of drivers on decisions that will affect their work,” according to the complaint.

Uber wants an order invalidating the rules as arbitrary and capricious. The 29-page lawsuit and petition for writ of certiorari includes another 77 pages of exhibits.

Uber is represented by Robert Maguire with Davis Wright Tremaine.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued Seattle last August on similar grounds, but a federal judge dismissed it for lack of standing.

Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest Brooke Steger said the voting guidelines would “have a significant impact” on drivers.

“The city ignored the voices of thousands of drivers and riders who called for all drivers to get a vote,” Steger said after the rules were released.

“The rules also fail to provide basic protections for driver privacy — protections that are essential for a fair and free election. The outcome of this process could have a significant impact on the flexibility and freedom of the more than 10,000 Seattleites who use the Uber app to pay their bills, feed their families or meet any number of other economic needs — no matter how much they drive,” Steger said in a statement.

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office said it would vigorously defend the rule-making process.