For Uber-Lyft Drivers, Seattle Loss May Boost Unions Elsewhere

  • United States
  • 05/14/2018
  • Bloomberg Law

A court ruling that hobbled Seattle’s trail-blazing effort to help Uber and Lyft drivers organize unions may still offer a bright spot for labor advocates.

Legal experts say Friday’s ruling by a federal appeals court opens the door for lawmakers elsewhere to draft proposals allowing collective bargaining for drivers. The court concluded that Washington state didn’t authorize the Seattle measure specifically enough.

“This opinion, in rejecting regulation in Seattle, has made it clear to states like California and New York that they can pass a statute tomorrow to regulate the relationship between Uber and Lyft and their drivers,” said William Gould, a professor emeritus at Stanford’s law school. “All they have to do is be more explicit and provide for some level of state supervision as well as municipal supervision.”

Charlotte Garden, a law professor at Seattle University who had urged the San Francisco-based appeals court to uphold the city measure’s legality, said Washington state could still rescue it by passing statewide legislation.

A measure similar to Seattle’s ordinance was introduced in the California legislature in 2016, but was withdrawn amid resistance from industry and concerns among organized labor about how it was structured.

“It’s too new for people,” the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, said at the time. She said she planned to revisit the issue.

— With assistance by Joel Rosenblatt