Seattle city officials asked for six more months to decide on rules guiding collective bargaining for ride-service companies like Lyft and Uber.
In a jampacked City Council committee hearing, city officials asked for six more months to decide on rules for the implementation of collective bargaining for ride-service companies like Lyft and Uber.
City officials told the council that they were having a hard time determining what should qualify ride-service drivers to vote on whether they should form bargaining unions.
Some drivers work full-time, others work just a few hours a week. The big question: Should those part-time drivers get a vote?
David Mendoza, a policy adviser to Mayor Ed Murray, told council members that the administration has asked for data about drivers from ride-service companies and has not received a response. He said the city might need to survey drivers to set a voting threshold.
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At times, the meeting was hectic. More than 100 people signed up to give public comment, and shouts, cheers, whistles and boos often drowned out speakers on both sides of the issue.
Drivers gave mixed testimony to the council.
Many drivers argued that if someone has given just one ride on an app platform, they should be able to vote; others said only those who were primarily supporting themselves through Uber should have a say.
“I think every voice should be heard. This country is built on the democratic process. Everyone should have a voice,” Michael Riebs told the council. He said he was skeptical of unionizing and said no one had given him a convincing argument why it would benefit him.
Takele Gobena, a longtime driver and one of several leaders of the App-based Driver Association that has pushed unionization, said some people only choose to drive on weekends, or for fun.
“Bringing those people in and saying they need a vote equal to those doing 70 hours a week is unreasonable,” he said.
Dawn Gearhart, an organizer with Teamsters 117, said she believes Uber is pushing the one-ride, one-vote, idea to “dilute the voting pool” and make it more difficult for drivers doing most of the work to organize.
An Uber spokesman said the meeting made clear drivers wanted to be heard.
“I think it’s clear drivers want to have a voice. Uber’s concerned the council ordinance will disenfranchise them from having a voice,” said spokesman Caleb Weaver, when asked his impression of the hearing.
Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin also had concerns.
“We remain concerned that the ordinance threatens the privacy of drivers and undermines the flexibility that makes Lyft so attractive to drivers and passengers alike,” he said, referring to the city’s request for data on its drivers.
The city’s Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department was tasked with creating a defined structure for bargaining. Those rules were supposed to be decided by Sept. 19, at which point, driver contractors could begin to organize.
There are about 10,000 Uber drivers in Seattle. City staffers held three meetings with a total of 180 drivers and held four more meetings with company and labor representatives to form the rules.
The staffers said they needed more time to do outreach with drivers and to put out a survey to understand how much drivers work.
Councilman Bruce Harrell asked city staff for an outreach plan to be presented in two weeks at the next committee meeting. At that point, the council would decide whether to extend the deadline for FAS. At some point, Harrell said, more outreach could only help so much.
“It seems to me you can do all the outreach in the world and you’re still going to get mixed opinion. One ride, one vote, to 30 hours of driving, there’s no right or wrong,” Harrell said. “At some point, we need to make a tough call.”