Monthly Archives: August 2015

Seattle might try something crazy to let Uber drivers unionize

By Lydia DePillis

Abdul Sami, 51, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST)

Abdul Sami, 51, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company’s office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST)

Seattle may try a novel legal approach to helping Uber drivers to unionize — and potentially other independent contractors too, if the idea holds up in court.

Today, a Seattle City Councilmember is expected to announce legislation that would grant all for-hire drivers in the city the right to collectively bargain with the companies they contract with to provide services, which they currently can’t do under federal law, setting up an entirely new system.

Over the past few years, taxi drivers have affiliated with unions in cities across the country. But since they’re usually independent contractors, they’re not covered by the law that allows them to negotiate directly with taxi companies, like other private-sector employees can. Their only power is to try to influence how cabs are regulated, which determines their pay and working conditions.

So far, that’s worked out alright for taxi drivers, who’ve worked with the Teamsters in Washington State to make their case in Olympia — especially when they’ve banded together with taxi companies to keep rates high. But the state hasn’t seen fit to tightly regulate online platforms like Uber and Lyft, which will sometimes cut their rates in order to compete with each other in different cities.

That leads to insecurity for the drivers.

“I thought I was going to be having my own car, having my own schedule, making $1000 a week,” says Sereve Pekle, 28, a Seattle taxi driver who switched over to Uber about a year ago. “The reality was completely different.”

Pekle says he ended up making less money as more drivers …read more

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