Seattle lets Uber drivers unionise

SEATTLE • The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved a Bill allowing drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps to form unions.

In the first legislation of its kind in the country, the decision was greeted with cheers in a city council chamber packed with supporters.

The measure - the latest headache for Uber, which is in battles about employment issues across the US - is likely to be challenged in court.

The 9-0 vote is a victory for Seattle's App-Based Drivers Association, an organisation of on-demand contract workers that lobbied with the local Teamsters union for the legislation.

One member of the city council, Mr Nick Licata, called the vote "history-setting in what we're attempting to do here in terms of advancing the rights of drivers".

In a statement after the vote, a spokesman for Lyft said the ordinance passed would threaten the privacy of drivers, impose costs on passengers and the city, and conflict with federal law.

"We urge the mayor and full council to reconsider this legislation and listen to the voices of their constituents who choose to drive with Lyft because of the flexible economic opportunity it offers," the statement read.

Legal specialists said the measure could run afoul of federal labour laws. Groups of independent contractors engaging in collective bargaining could also run up against illegal price-fixing issues under anti-trust law.

Uber said about half of its drivers work fewer than 10 hours a week and there is such a high turnover of drivers that designating them as employees or allowing them to unionise does not make sense.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Seattle lets Uber drivers unionise'. Print Edition | Subscribe