For-Hire Drivers Spar Over Seattle's Proposed Unionization Rules

Dec 7, 2016

More than 200 people gathered at Seattle City Hall Tuesday afternoon to talk about how drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft could potentially unionize.

The hearing was held to talk about draft rules the city released a couple weeks ago regarding an ordinance the Seattle City Council passed last year.  

That ordinance gives taxi drivers and drivers for app-based services the opportunity to unionize, but it's up to the city's Department of Financial and Administrative services to figure out how that process will work.

Even though the hearing was supposed to be about the rules, driver after driver went up to the microphone Tuesday afternoon and talked about their fears or hopes for the unions themselves. 

The room was clearly divided, with some drivers expressing fear that a union would limit their hours and flexibility and others saying that being able to bargain through a union would keep their wages and working conditions safe.

The proposed rules cover everything from what a union vote would look like to what's on the bargaining table.

Both sides took issue with the rule that says which drivers would count in a union vote. As written, drivers have to make a certain number of trips in a certain amount of time to qualify to vote.

Many of the anti-union drivers and the companies they work for have said that every driver should have a vote, regardless of how many hours they've worked. Pro-union drivers and Teamsters Local 117, which helped sponsor the original ordinance, have said the rule should focus more on those who drive full time.

Some people who spoke also said they were worried about their privacy if their information was made available to a union, and others wanted to clarify which things could be bargained on.

The city can take these comments and use them to make any changes to the rules, which have to be finalized by January 17.