SEATTLE (CN) – Uber drivers and other independent contractors would be allowed to unionize under a proposal to be heard Tuesday by the Seattle City Council.
Councilman Mike O’Brien will introduce the ordinance , giving all Seattle for-hire drivers the right to collectively bargain with their employers. It would cover taxi drivers and drivers for app-based services such as Uber and Lyft.
“Many of these drivers make below minimum wage and have no rights in their jobs, and when they do raise issues they are quickly silenced or retaliated against with loss of access to the app or dispatcher that enables them to work,” O’Brien said in a statement.
“A business model that controls all aspects of these drivers work but relies on the drivers being classified as independent contractors undermines Seattle’s efforts to address income inequality and create opportunities for all workers in this city to earn a living wage.”
Drivers for mobile ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are considered independent contractors and are exempt from Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage law.
O’Brien said he met with a driver who worked for Uber and Lyft who took home an average of $2.75 an hour after taxes and deductions.
“These companies like Uber and Lyft are making billions off these drivers, yet the drivers have no say in their role with the companies,” O’Brien said. “They are taking advantage of an unfair working situation for the drivers, and we must innovate and try a new approach to help these drivers realize Seattle’s dream that everyone can make a living wage.”
Under the proposed ordinance, the city would certify nonprofit organizations to represent drivers in negotiations over pay and working conditions. All drivers who have a Seattle for-hire vehicle license and have performed a minimum number of trips would be eligible for collective representation.
The city will provide driver representative organizations with a list of eligible drivers at each company and will have 120 days to demonstrate that a majority of the drivers want to be represented. The organization can then engage in collective bargaining. The city will review any final collective agreements to ensure compliance with city codes.
O’Brien said the city has the power to “license for-hire vehicles, taxicabs, for-hire drivers taxicab associations and transportation network companies” under the municipal code.
“There is currently no mechanism for drivers to address these issues with their employer directly. Independent contractors are specifically excluded from the National Labor Relations Act. As a result, conflicts in this publicly regulated transportation market have become policy fights rather than points of negotiation, as they would be in other private sector employment,” O’Brien said.
Each provision in the ordinance is separate and severable.
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