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Court Upholds Seattle Ordinance Rules Allowing Uber Union Vote


A Washington state judge upheld a Seattle ordinance allowing app-based ride-hailing drivers to vote to unionize, dealing a blow to Uber Technologies Inc.’s hopes of stalling the legislation.

Judge Beth Andrus of King County Superior Court issued the ruling on Friday that affirms the ordinance, which paves the way for the nation’s first unionization effort for app-based drivers.

The ordinance, which was passed in 2015 and took effect in January, gives drivers the right to vote to unionize and possibly the ability to negotiate fares and benefits. Uber had sued the city of Seattle earlier this year seeking to block the ordinance, in part because of rules around which drivers can vote.

“The city’s collective-bargaining ordinance rules deny thousands of Seattle drivers a voice and a vote on their future,” Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest, said in a statement. “Seattle should be working to give drivers a voice rather than denying them one. We will continue to look for ways to raise these very serious concerns.”

Uber didn’t say whether it intends to appeal Friday’s ruling.

Lyft didn’t join in the lawsuit but opposed the ordinance. The company declined to comment.

Uber argues a union threatens the freedom of its drivers to work as much or as little as they wish and isn’t something drivers want.

The company is squaring off against the Teamsters labor union, which has begun petitioning Uber and Lyft for driver contact information so they can begin organizing in earnest in the coming weeks. The union says it is necessary for drivers to petition Uber for changes to wages and benefits.

Some 10,000 Uber drivers work in the Seattle area.

To vote under the ordinance, drivers must have completed 52 trips starting or ending in Seattle over a three-month period during the past year. The companies say they want a more representative vote. That is because more occasional drivers prefer the flexibility of working when they want and are less likely than full-time drivers to support a union, the companies believe.

The ruling isn’t the end to legal challenges to the ordinance. Both the US Chamber of Commerce and a group of 11 drivers backed by the National Right to Work Committee have sued in federal court to overturn Seattle’s rules. Those arguments are expected to be heard later this year.

WSJ 3/17


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