Late last month, Uber sued the city of Seattle, challenging the city’s authority to implement a landmark law allowing drivers in the gig economy to unionize. It was an opening shot in what is likely to be a long and costly legal battle.
Uber’s legal challenge comes at an awkward time for the ride-hailing juggernaut. The company recently named 2017 “the year of the driver” and has said it will devote energy and resources to improving its relationship with the hundreds of thousands of people who drive on its platform. But the company’s bungled response to a taxi strike during the recent JFK protests led to a grassroots #DeleteUber campaign that saw 200,000 riders canceling their accounts. This latest situation in Seattle may further complicate Uber’s attempts to reverse the negative effects of that campaign.
After its passage in December 2015, Uber and Lyft declined to challenge it outright, instead supporting a lawsuit brought by the pro-business, anti-union US Chamber of Commerce. But then in August, a judge tossed the chamber’s lawsuit, calling it premature until the city moved forward with implementation.
That implementation began in December, when Seattle’s department of Finance and Administrative Services published rules online that cover issues like which drivers get to unionize, working conditions subject to bargaining, and how an organization gets certified to represent drivers exclusively.
Shortly thereafter, Uber filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s rulemaking authority, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” and inconsistent with “fundamental labor laws,” according to court documents. “The City must follow a lawful rulemaking process and adopt rules which properly consider the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry, and labor law precedent,” Uber argues in the suit.
LGM has exclusive live coverage of Uber headquarters.