Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council are playing hot potato with a key aspect of Seattle’s first-in-the-nation ordinance allowing taxi and Uber drivers to unionize.

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Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council are playing hot potato with a key part of Seattle’s first-in-the-nation ordinance allowing taxi and Uber drivers to unionize.

Each wants the other to decide which drivers will get to vote on unionization, a crowd of anxious drivers learned Wednesday during a tense council meeting.

The council passed the ordinance in December giving independent-contractor drivers the right to opt for collective bargaining with companies such as Uber.

But it left some decisions about the ordinance’s rules up to the director of the Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) department, who works for the mayor.

Though the ordinance took effect in January, it includes a waiting period before unionization efforts can begin. For months, FAS staff have been working on the rules, racing to complete them before the Sept. 19 start date.

The most contentious rule has been the one defining which drivers will be considered qualified to vote on unionizing.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who worked with Teamsters Local 117 on the ordinance, initially proposed giving votes only to drivers with at least 150 completed trips in the past 30 days. But he removed that condition before the council’s vote, punting the decision to FAS.

Uber and some drivers, many of them who take fares on a part-time basis, say every driver should get a vote. The Teamsters and other drivers say people making a living by driving should be in control of their own circumstances. They say Uber wants infrequent drivers to vote because they would be less likely to support unionization.

Though the ordinance clearly directs FAS to make the call, Murray adviser David Mendoza said Wednesday the mayor doesn’t plan to have the department do that.

In December, Murray refused to sign the ordinance. He cited concerns about legal and administrative costs and said the council should not have left so much up to FAS.

The mayor’s stance has only hardened since then, Mendoza told Council President Bruce Harrell’s equity committee, which is monitoring the ordinance’s implementation.

The adviser said Murray’s intent is for FAS to propose which drivers should get to vote and then for the council to make the actual decision.

“Because this was council-generated legislation, the executive does not wish to make a unilateral decision on this important question,” Mendoza said, punting back to the council.

That didn’t seem to sit very well with Harrell, who called it “new information.”

Rather than extend the Sept. 19 deadline by six months, as FAS staff have requested, the committee voted to extend it by just two months. The full council will weigh in next.

The FAS staff say they need more time to survey drivers and keep working on the ”Who gets a vote?” question.