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Support for-hire drivers’ rights in Seattle


UPDATE — A key Seattle City Council committee voted unanimously (7-0) this afternoon to advance this innovative new ordinance that will protect drivers’ right to organize and negotiate for higher pay and better conditions!


SEATTLE (Oct. 2, 2015) — The Seattle City Council is considering groundbreaking legislation that would give drivers in Seattle’s for-hire industry — taxis, for-hire drivers, and drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft — the opportunity to have a voice on the job by coming together to collectively negotiate over their pay and working conditions.

TAKE A STAND — Support these drivers by coming to an important hearing TODAY (Friday) at Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave. For-hire drivers and their supporters will meet at noon at the City Hall Plaza on the west edge of City Hall along 4th Avenue and the hearing will begin at 2 p.m.

Can’t make it? Send an email to the Mayor and Council in support of the legislation!

This proposal is making national news. Why?  Because, for the first time, this legislation would allow workers previously considered “independent contractors” the right to speak up together and make sure they get paid for the work they do. If successful, this could have a profound effect on how independent contractors are treated in a variety of industries.

As Teamsters Local 177 points out, “You know something is afoul in Seattle’s for-hire industry when a driver for a $50 billion company like Uber looks at his tax return and discovers that he made less than $3/hr last year. But that is the reality workers like Takele Gobena are facing in the new ‘gig economy’ as they try to cobble together a living without access to basic rights and protections of traditional employees.”

Because for-hire drivers are classified as “independent contractors,” not only are they denied the freedom to unionize through a traditional NLRB election process, they also are not covered by Seattle’s wage theft, sick leave, or new $15/hr minimum wage laws.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, sponsor of the new legislation, believes that allowing drivers to bargain with the companies themselves might work better than depending on regulation to improve their wages and working conditions. His proposal would allow the drivers to vote on a non-profit organization to serve as their “exclusive driver representative,” which would negotiate a contract with the company. If the two parties fail to come to an agreement, they have to submit to arbitration. The resulting contract would be enforced through the courts, rather than the NLRB.

“This is precisely the type of legislation that has over the past few years made Seattle a leader in addressing systemic income inequality,” writes Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council members:

Too many companies are skirting the law by misclassifying workers as independent contractors, creating more and more precarious employment, employment that loads all the liabilities onto the worker and allows the employer to keep the wealth generated by these workers… The landmark legislation before you and the City Council right now would put balance back into the employment formula by giving workers in the for-hire transportation industry a voice at the workplace and an opportunity to share in the prosperity that they create for their employers.

Supporters of these drivers are urged to fill the Council Chambers today! For more information, email Dawn Gearhart of Teamsters Local 117.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!