Uber And Lyft Drivers' Fight For Unionization Still Alive (For Now) (Updated)


Uber and Lyft’s efforts to keep drivers from unionizing faced a setback when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that would have ended a ride-share driver union in Seattle.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik dismissed a suit that argued allowing driver unionization in Seattle breaks antitrust laws, as ride-share companies classify its drivers as “independent contract workers” instead of employees. Seattle is the first and only city to allow Uber and Lyft driver unionization.


Lasnik, however, ordered a temporary halt on Seattle driver unionization after the lawsuit was filed and the block remains in place.

Uber and Lyft drivers would rather classify drivers as independent contract workers to keep from paying expensive benefits and salaries. Driver earnings are already costly for Uber and Lyft, and both companies are looking into self-driving technologies to nix the need for drivers altogether.

Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle, however, told Jalopnik they enjoy their right to collective bargaining. Many of these drivers work as many hours driving as they would at a full-time job, without benefits or a salary.

UPDATED August 2 4:52 p.m. EST: Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin told Jalopnik the company is “disappointed” in the ruling.


“Seattle’s poorly drafted ridesharing ordinance could undermine the flexibility of drivers to choose when, where and for how long they drive—the very things that make Lyft so attractive to drivers and useful for passengers,” Durbin said in an e-mail.

UPDATED August 2 2:09 p.m. EST: Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest, gave the following statement to Jalopnik: “The Court’s decision ignores the serious legal challenges raised in this case about an ordinance that will turn back the clock in Seattle. If this ruling is allowed to stand, those most adversely affected will unfortunately be thousands of drivers...This ordinance was never about benefiting drivers or the community but really about helping Teamsters and protecting taxi companies.”


Uber intends to appeal Lasnik’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

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Uber and lyft is disruptive because it bypassed the existing taxi system providing a cheaper alternative . If the drivers are unionized and considered employees or contractors (as is the case in CA) costs will rise and it will be just a taxi service with an app.

Unions also tend to get involved in things preferential treatment of senior (as in tenure, not age) drivers such that the small time occasional driver may find it harder to break in as senior union members demand preferential routing of customers.  

Further having a union will also provide a party for lawsuits, for example victims of sexual assault at the hands of drivers with records could sue the union for not properly vetting drivers.

Don’t get me wrong I am all for protecting workers, I just think a union is going to have more disadvantages then advantages for the driver. Having more competing services is probably a better way to improve the driver treatment.