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Seattle Ordinance Giving Drivers Right to Bargain Collectively Violates Federal Law, Chamber Says in Lawsuit

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has challenged the Seattle City Ordinance giving drivers of app-based transportation companies that use independent contractors to provide services (such as Uber and Lyft) the right to collectively bargain.  

On its face, the federal lawsuit seeks to invalidate the Ordinance on the grounds that it violates federal anti-trust law and is preempted by federal labor law.  However, if the Chamber is successful, the lawsuit will have accomplished a much larger goal – the promotion of competition to benefit consumers, the elimination of a major challenge to app-based companies’ business model, and protection of these companies’ ability to operate union-free.

The National Labor Relations Act governs most private sector employees’ rights to bargain collectively. The Chamber argues that the Ordinance is preempted by the NLRA because (1) it attempts to regulate independent contractors who were intentionally excluded from the collective bargaining requirements of the NLRA, and (2) administration of the Ordinance requires the Seattle Director of Finance to determine whether a particular driver is an independent contractor or employee, a determination which is reserved to the exclusive jurisdiction of the NLRB. The Chamber has asked the court to declare the Ordinance unlawful and enjoin its enforcement.

The lawsuit is not expected to diminish the Seattle City Council’s support for the legislation or deter unions from seeking to represent drivers pursuant to the Ordinance. Teamsters Local 117 has publicly denounced the lawsuit as an attempt to derail collective bargaining for independent contractor drivers.  Regardless, given the importance of the issue and the potential economic impact to app-based transportation companies, the litigation is expected to be hard fought.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020


About this Author

April Upchurch Fredrickson, Employer legal advisor, Jackson Lewis, disability accommodation lawyer

April Upchurch Fredrickson is an Associate in the Portland, Oregon, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Ms. Upchurch Fredrickson advises employers on a variety of issues including employee discipline and termination, employment discrimination, state and federal leave laws, disability accommodation, wage and hour compliance, employment policies and practices, and non-compete agreements.

In dealing with her clients, Ms. Upchurch Fredrickson emphasizes the importance of preventive counseling to minimize the risk of costly litigation...

Howard Bloom, Jackson Lewis, labor union attorney, unfair practice investigations lawyer, employment legal counsel, bargaining law

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification campaigns. He also represents clients at the National Labor Relations Board in connection with bargaining unit issues, objections and challenges, as well as unfair labor practice investigations and trials. Mr. Bloom also has been the spokesperson at countless first and successor contract collective bargaining negotiations, and regularly advises on collective bargaining agreement administration issues, including grievance/arbitration issues.

Mr. Bloom has appeared before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, several U.S. District Courts, the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Philip B. Rosen Jackson Lewis  Preventive Practices Lawyer & Collective Bargaining Attorney

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a member of the firm's Board of Directors and co-leads the firm's Labor and Preventive Practices Group. He joined the firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-...