Federal appeals court puts Seattle’s Uber/Lyft unionization law on hold

While attention is focused on Seattle’s jobs tax, Friday’s ruling in challenge to Seattle’s unprecedented Uber/Lyft unionization law should not be overlooked. The Seattle Times reports,

Seattle’s first-in-the-nation law that attempts to let Uber and Lyft drivers unionize will remain on hold, more than two years after it was passed, after a federal appeals court ruled that the law is subject to further legal challenges.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Seattle’s 2015 law can be challenged under federal antitrust law, sending it back to the lower court.

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed the law in 2015, hoping to allow drivers to decide whether they want to unionize and then to collectively bargain for things like pay, benefits and better working conditions.

For background, see our 2017 post.

Geek Wire writes,

Uber spokesman Caleb Weaver said in response to the ruling Friday that “the court’s decision is a win for rideshare drivers, riders, and the entire Seattle community.”

While Uber considers the decision a win, the appeals court did agree with Judge Lasnik’s dismissal of one of the two major arguments made by the chamber.

The lawsuit from the chamber is not the only legal hurdle in front of the unionization law. A suit brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, on behalf of 11 Uber and Lyft drivers who oppose Seattle’s collective bargaining ordinance, is also in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court has yet to rule on that case.

As the ST story points out, this isn’t over.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said that the city is currently “evaluating its next steps consistent with its commitment to protecting worker rights.”

With the appeals court deciding that Seattle is not immune from the antitrust law, the case returns to U.S. District Court, where the sides are expected to fight over another point: whether the law is impermissible under the Sherman Act.

The 48-page ruling is here. There are, unsurprisingly, legal costs involved with going where no city has gone before.