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Collective Bargaining Rights Granted for Uber Drivers, Independent Contractors

On December 14, 2015, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation giving Uber, Lyft and other “for hire” drivers the right to unionize and negotiate their pay and working conditions. The ordinance will apply to companies that hire, contract with or partner with at least 50 for-hire drivers in Seattle. Uber and Lyft drivers are considered to be independent contractors, which is why such legislation is groundbreaking. Independent contractors do not have the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act—the federal labor law that provides employees with, among other things, collective bargaining rights.

In a recent Wall Street Journal publication, Reuel Schiller, a professor of University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, said, “If a state wanted to create a regime where independent contractors are able to unionize, there’s nothing in the National Labor Relations Act that would stop them from doing that.” On the other hand, ride-hailing services could argue that allowing drivers to form unions could raise antitrust concerns since it might enable price-setting by thousands of contractors, each operating as independent businesses, Schiller said.

This legislation will likely face significant legal challenges and opposition from employers claiming federal preemption. Under the ordinance, approved organizations will be allowed to represent drivers, provided that such organizations submit to the director of Seattle’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services statements of interest from a majority of a company’s qualifying drivers. The method will be card-check, not election.

Other cities will likely wait and see how the Seattle legislation plays out in the courts before creating their own similar legislation.

As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune on January 14, 2016, Uber independent contractors in San Diego plan to protest recent Uber fare discounts, which will lead to more driving miles for the same amount of wages. Some drivers fear that Lyft and Uber are lowering their rates to compete with each other in U.S. markets.

©2019 MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP

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Robert Mulcahy, Michael Best Law Firm, Private and Public Sector Labor and Employment Attorney
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Rob is a skilled negotiator whose practice includes both public and private sector management labor and employment law. His work includes National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proceedings, collective bargaining, contract administration and arbitration proceedings.

Rob also has extensive experience working on employment discrimination matters and wage and hour claims. He helps clients tackle tough issues, including:

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Farrah Rifelj, Michael Best Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney
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Farrah serves Michael Best in two capacities: as Deputy General Counsel and as a partner in the Labor and Employment Relations Practice Group. Her practice focuses on employment counseling and employment litigation, with a particular emphasis on discrimination, noncompetition, and Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

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Brian Paul, Michael Best Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney
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Brian brings strategic business vision to his work representing companies engaged in employment-related disputes, both in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies. The focus of Brian’s practice is to deliver positive outcomes in litigation matters, including:

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Miguel Manriquez, Michael Best Friedrich, labor relations attorney, employment negotiations legal counsel, sports licensing lawyer, marketing law, digital media representation
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Miguel Manriquez is an attorney in the firm’s Labor & Employment Relations Practice Group.

Labor and Employment Relations Law

Mr. Manriquez assists clients with labor relations, contract negotiations and labor and employment litigation. He has significant experience regarding unfair labor practices, labor negotiations and other labor relations matters.

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