Too Soon to Fight Seattle Union Law, 9th Circuit Says

SEATTLE (CN) – A Ninth Circuit panel on Thursday upheld the dismissal of a challenge to a Seattle ordinance allowing app-based drivers to unionize, agreeing the claims are not ripe.

For-hire drivers for companies including Uber and Lyft claimed the ordinance violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and their First Amendment rights.

Seattle became the first city in the United States to allow for-hire drivers to collectively bargain with employers when the ordinance passed in 2016. The law allows both cab drivers and drivers for ride-hail services like Lyft and Uber to negotiate pay and working conditions through a representative.

The drivers sued in 2017 over a provision allowing disclosure of personal driver information to a union and also said the law is pre-empted by the NLRA.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik dismissed the suit, finding the claims hypothetical and not ripe for judicial review.

The drivers appealed, and on Thursday a three-judge panel of Ninth Circuit agreed the lawsuit is premature.

The drivers’ personal information has not been disclosed, but even if the disclosure is imminent it’s “neither a concrete nor a particularized injury,” U.S. Circuit Judge Milan Smith wrote in the unanimous opinion.

Smith said the drivers couldn’t show a real risk of harm in the disclosure.

“In order to operate in the city of Seattle, all for-hire drivers must obtain business licenses and disclose much of the same information in a public and searchable municipal database,” Smith wrote.

The panel also found claims of NLRA violations are premature and “neither actual nor imminent.”

Because the claims are not ripe, the panel lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of the case, according to the opinion.

U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Murguia and Senior U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno, sitting by designation from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, rounded out the panel.


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