Federal Judge to U.S. Chamber: “Not yet” on lawsuit challenging Seattle law allowing Uber, Lyft drivers to unionize

A federal judge has put on hold a lawsuit filed by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce that challenged a Seattle ordinance permitting Lyft and Uber drivers to form a union. We wrote about it here.  The Seattle Times explains the ruling

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, in a written ruling Tuesday, said the Chamber and its members, such as Uber, don’t yet have standing to challenge the ordinance because they haven’t yet been harmed by it.

Though the Seattle City Council passed the ordinance in December, officials are still working on the rules by which it will be implemented.

In brief,

[The ordinance] gives drivers for app-based, ride-dispatch companies like Uber and Lyft the right to bargain collectively with the companies over working conditions, including pay.

Bloomberg News reports, 

The question of whether Uber and Lyft drivers can unionize is part of a larger fight over how sharing economy companies treat their workforce. Uber’s business model is under attack worldwide by the taxi industry, local governments and drivers.

The Teamsters-backed measure, unanimously approved Dec. 14 by the Seattle City Council, requires taxicab and for-hire car companies to negotiate with a “driver representative” over the terms and conditions of work, if a sufficient number of drivers choose to be represented.

And, as with predictive scheduling and the $15 minimum wage, Seattle Times reporter Daniel Beekman points out,

Seattle’s ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. 

CNBC reports on the decision, including a statement from the U.S. Chamber.

Seattle has merely “delayed coming to grips with the legal flaws at the heart of this ordinance,” the chamber said in a statement.

“While the judge held that it is too early to decide this case, he made clear at oral argument that he stands ready to hear a challenge to Seattle’s unprecedented ordinance in the future,” it said.

As Bloomberg’s Robert Burnson wrote, the suit is wrapped up in the larger question of how government regulates the sharing, or gig, economy, a point we made in this post. The stakes, then, are high. And the issue will continue to ripen.