Judge delivers setback to challenge of Seattle law permitting for-hire drivers to unionize. But it’s not over yet.

A judge has dismissed one challenge to Seattle’s unprecedented law allowing Uber, Lyft and other for-hire drivers to form unions. The Seattle Times reports,

A federal judge dismissed one legal challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize, but another related challenge remains and the law will not begin to go into effect until that lawsuit is settled.

In April, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik temporarily blocked the law, passed in 2015, from going into effect, while he considered the legal challenges.

On Tuesday, Lasnik rejected the first of those challenges, a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of its members, including Uber and Lyft.

In April we wrote of Lasnik’s decision and noted that the emergence of the gig economy has opened new doors for ambitious regulators, of which there is no shortage.

As the Times points out, the dismissal does not end the controversy or the litigation.

Lasnik is still considering a second lawsuit, from about a dozen Uber and Lyft drivers backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation, two groups that promote conservative, anti-union legislation.

Seattle filed a motion to dismiss that lawsuit about a week after it filed to dismiss the Chamber’s lawsuit.

Uber promised to appeal its loss to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The Court’s decision ignores the serious legal challenges raised in this case about an ordinance that will turn back the clock in Seattle,” Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest said in a prepared statement. “If this ruling is allowed to stand, those most adversely affected will unfortunately be thousands of drivers.”

Unsurprisingly, for-hire workers who want to unionize are celebrating their (so-far) temporary victory. But as KIRO reported last December, drivers are divided about the merits of the ordinance.

In general, part-time drivers feel there are already enough rules. Full-time drivers, however, say their pay is shrinking and the company can change the rules at any time. They worry about being kicked off the app if they support the union.

A full-time driver named Akile , says people like him need a union.

“We have a lot of drivers who are hardly paying insurance right now,” he said.

But another driver disagreed, especially with claims by city council members that driver pay often falls below minimum wage.

“I’ve heard drivers complaining about not making enough money, to which I say, if you’re not averaging $20 an hour, you’re either not working hard enough or smart enough.”

Bruce Hablas, another anti-union driver, says changes to the rules through the ordinance could cause him to lose his right to operate his private business and that it “certainly seems illegal.”


More to come.