Uber & Lyft Fight Unionization in Seattle

SEATTLE (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday delayed ruling on efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to block Seattle’s first-of-its-kind ordinance allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize, saying he needs more time to study the issue.

The city agreed to delay fines for companies that fail to turn over drivers’ contact information to Teamsters Local 117 by April 3, the original deadline. The Teamsters have permission from Seattle to attempt to organize the drivers.

Last year, Seattle became the first city in the United States to allow for-hire drivers to collectively bargain with employers. The law allows both cab drivers and drivers for ride-hail services like Lyft and Uber to negotiate pay and working conditions.

The Chamber of Commerce sued Seattle in March, asking a federal judge to bar enforcement of the law. Its first lawsuit was dismissed in August last year, after a federal judge ruled the claims were not ripe for review because the ordinance had not gone into effect.

Chamber members, including Uber and Lyft will suffer irreparable harm if they are forced to turn over drivers’ contact information to the Teamsters, attorneys for the Chamber argued at Thursday’s hearing.

“This is valuable business information,” Chris Vergonis, with Jones Day, argued for the Chamber.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik questioned the argument, saying he heard Uber and Lyft drivers talk during rides about how they work for both companies.

“The companies don’t have to poach them,” Lasnik said about the drivers.

Turning over drivers’ contact information would also violate the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, the Chamber said.

The contact information would only be used by the Teamsters to organize drivers and the information would not be shared with competitors, Assistant Seattle City Attorney Michael Ryan said.

“There is no harm, let alone competitive harm,” Ryan said.

Lasnik said the discussion was “heavy stuff,” and he hoped to rule on the temporary restraining order request by no later than early next week.

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