Drivers Call on City to Take Action to Pass a Driver/Passenger Bill of Rights
Drivers in Seattle’s for-hire industry expressed frustration at today’s ruling by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that partially reverses a lower court’s decision to uphold Seattle’s collective bargaining law.
“Drivers are deeply disappointed with today’s decision, which continues to delay our right to unionization,” said Don Creery, an Uber and Lyft driver and member of the leadership council of the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA). “Anti-trust laws were put in place to protect the little guy from monopolistic practices from large corporations, not to shield a company like Uber – valued at over $70 billion – from negotiating with its workers over fair pay and working conditions.”
"Drivers have already waited for years for fair pay and the right to a union."
Drivers called on the City of Seattle to enact new policies to protect drivers, level the playing field in the industry, and ensure that drivers can earn a living wage. “Drivers have already waited for years for fair pay and the right to a union. Today’s court decision emphasizes the urgent need for the Seattle City Council to step in to improve pay for drivers and pass a Driver/Passenger Bill of Rights,” Creery said.
Because of their disputed status as independent contractors, for-hire drivers who work for Uber and Lyft have not been protected by traditional labor laws or state and local laws, such as Seattle's $15 an hour minimum wage law and Washington State’s new paid sick leave law. In April, the City of Seattle passed a resolution to study the industry and consider regulations that could lead to better pay and other protections for drivers.
In 2014, Uber and Lyft drivers sought assistance from Teamsters Local 117 to improve their pay and working conditions. In May 2014, drivers established ABDA to promote fairness, justice, and transparency in the for-hire industry.
“We are disappointed by the Court’s ruling that continues to block drivers from having a voice,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Like other working people in this country, for-hire drivers should have the same freedom to stand together in their union to improve their pay and working conditions. We will continue to stand with drivers for their right to unionize, earn a family wage, and to raise standards in the industry.”
Drivers Call on Uber to Stop Efforts to Block their Right to Have a Voice
Seattle for-hire drivers who are seeking to unionize under the city’s new collective bargaining law applauded a federal judge’s ruling to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenging the law.
“We’ve been waiting for this day, waiting to join the union and to have the right to negotiate with Uber,” said Mustafe Abdi, who has been driving with Uber for three years.
Abdi, who is a member of the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA), listed a number of concerns he and other for-hire drivers would like to address at the bargaining table. “We need to talk about the rates and deactivation and other things. We don’t have medical, we don’t have retirement. We don’t have Social Security. We don’t feel safe when we drive our cars. This is good news for all drivers in Seattle.”
As independent contractors, Seattle for-hire drivers are not protected by traditional labor laws, such as Seattle's new $15/hr minimum wage law and its paid sick and safe ordinance.
"We’ve been waiting for this day, waiting to join the union and to have the right to negotiate with Uber."
Uber and Lyft drivers sought assistance from Teamsters Local 117 to improve working conditions in Seattle’s personal transportation industry. In 2014, drivers formed ABDA to promote fairness, justice, and transparency in the industry.
“Judge Lasnik’s ruling puts drivers one step closer to being able to freely exercise their right to have a voice and unionize under the new law,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “We hope Uber will respect the judge’s decision, stop its efforts to block the law, and recognize that, just like millions of other workers across the country, for-hire drivers have a basic right to self-determination and to stand together with the representative of their choosing to improve their pay and working conditions. We will continue to help drivers fight for that right.”
Drivers will have to wait to exercise their rights under the new law until the court lifts an injunction and rules on a separate case.
Oxford Internet Institute has published “Towards a Fairer Gig Economy”, a collection of articles examining the social and economic problems associated with the “gig” economy. Entries are penned by academics, researchers and include an article written by our Local 117 Association Policy Coordinator, Dawn Gearhart.
"Unions cannot collectively bargain with an algorithm, they can’t appeal to a platform, and they can’t negotiate with an equation."
In “Giving Uber Drivers a Voice in the Gig Economy”, she examines the impact of automatized app platforms on drivers in a system designed to disempower workers. Technology that was welcomed for new opportunities brought with it stagnant problems: falling wages, long hours and poor working conditions. Organizing app-based drivers presents a new challenge for the unions, and yet Teamsters have led this fight.
“Unions cannot collectively bargain with an algorithm, they can’t appeal to a platform, and they can’t negotiate with an equation.”
Gearhart highlights successful efforts of the drivers to reverse adverse effects of the new technology by creating the ABDA association, mobilizing against cuts in pay rates and working to successfully pass legislation in Seattle that empowers drivers.
You can read more here.
Uber drivers at the company office in Tukwila on April 4. The group was there to protest unfair deactivation.
Judge Lasnik Emphasizes Order Should Not be Read as Harbinger of Final Decision
Seattle for-hire drivers who are seeking to unionize under the city’s new collective bargaining law are determined to continue their organizing efforts after a federal district court judge issued an order temporarily blocking the new law.
"This is just going to make us come together and fight more."
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not going to stop us,” said Musse Bahta, who has driven for Uber for four years. “There are so many drivers who are ready to stand up for their rights. We are standing together with our union. This is just going to make us come together and fight more.”
Another Uber driver, Peter Kuel, also vowed to continue the organizing efforts. “The judge needs to understand what we’re going through. It’s too much. We feel the pain doing this job. We are not going to give up. We will continue fighting for those who cannot speak themselves,” he said.
Don Creery, a union supporter who has been driving with Uber since 2014, said drivers are facing so many issues that the ruling would not prevent them from continuing to seek representation.
“There are so many problems. We’re not being paid adequately. That means you work longer hours, which means you’re not safe. We have no benefits – that’s an issue. I work full-time for a 70 billion company. The American taxpayers should not have to subsidize my health care. That’s not right.”
In his ruling, Judge Lasnik made it clear that the temporary injunction should not be interpreted as indicative of a final decision in the case:
“The Court emphasizes that this Order should not be read as a harbinger of what the ultimate decision in this case will be when all dispositive motions are fully briefed and considered. The plaintiffs have raised serious questions that deserve careful, rigorous judicial attention, not a fast-tracked rush to judgment based on a date that has no extrinsic importance.”
For more information, please contact Dawn Gearhart at 206-794-6678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Uber drivers come together and speak out with one voice, good things happen.
Just two days after drivers packed a hearing room at City Hall to demand swift, fair implementation of the City’s new collective bargaining law, the company announced that it would raise its minimum fare from $4.00 to $4.80.
That means that drivers who get dispatched on short trips will see a modest increase in their earnings. As far as we know, Seattle is the only city where Uber is offering a higher minimum fare for drivers.
The reason for that is clear. Uber drivers in Seattle are getting more engaged in the political process. They’re letting the City, the company, and the public know that they want their rights under the new law to be respected.Read more
Check out our new video featuring Takele Gobena, a longtime driver for Uber and Lyft and a member of our App-Based Drivers Association.
In the video, Takele talks about the importance of having a Union, and how Seattle's new collective bargaining law helps gives drivers a voice. Our Union, Teamsters 117, played a pivotal role in helping to pass this groundbreaking legislation.
Please take a moment to watch the video and share it with your family and friends. Thank you!
If you want an excellent primer on our fight to organize and improve working conditions for Seattle-area for-hire drivers, look no further than this article that was published today in the American Prospect.
It's quite an extraordinary piece and call our Union - Teamsters 117 - the "spearhead of the battle" to create a more equitable city for all Seattle residents, not just the wealthy few.
It's long, but definitely a worthwhile read.
Uber driver Peter Kuel, who was stripped of his ability to work on the company’s app two weeks ago, thanked fellow drivers and the Teamsters Union for their support in helping him regain access to Uber’s for-hire driving platform. Kuel was notified of his reinstatement by phone and in an email from the company on Wednesday.
“I’m feeling very proud of what the Teamsters did and the members of the association,” Kuel said.
A leader of the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA) and outspoken advocate for unionization, Kuel was deactivated without notice on February 10. He visited Seattle’s Uber offices on three different occasions in an effort to resolve the issue but was unable to obtain a clear answer about why he was taken off the app.Read more