About a dozen drivers have filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking a temporary restraining order barring the city from enforcing the first-of-its-kind law allowing Lyft, Uber and taxi drivers to unionize.

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About a dozen Lyft and Uber drivers in Seattle are suing over the city’s law giving drivers of the app-based dispatch companies the ability to unionize.

In a federal lawsuit, the drivers are seeking a temporary restraining order barring the city from enforcing the law — the first of its kind in the country — saying it goes against federal labor and privacy laws, as well as violates their rights to free speech and association.

“The ordinance’s principal function is to grant a union authority to compel drivers and driver coordinators only to do business with one another, under the auspices of that union’s representation and contract,” says a motion filed Monday in the lawsuit, which includes two plaintiffs who drive for both Uber and Lyft.

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Seattle’s ordinance, which the City Council unanimously passed in 2015, allows independent contractors for taxi companies, for-hire companies and app-based ride services the right to collective bargaining over working conditions such as hours and pay on a company-by-compnay basis.

Kimberly Mills, spokeswoman for City Attorney Pete Holmes, said her office had no comment on the drivers’ lawsuit, “except to say the city will vigorously defend the ordinance.”

The lawsuit says the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) — which gives private employees the right to collectively bargain, though does not extend that protection to independent contractors — pre-empts the Seattle law.

The lawsuit also argues the law violates drivers’ rights under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act by implementing rules that allow for companies to turn over drivers’ personal information to union organizers.

The Seattle law went into effect in January 2016 with a waiting period before allowing unionization efforts. The most contentious issue so far had been the rule deciding which drivers get a say in whether to unionize.

The city eventually decided to give that option to drivers who have been with a company for the past 90 days and who have made at least 52 trips to, from or within Seattle during any three-month period in the past 12 months.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit — represented by attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation and the Freedom Foundation — include a handful of drivers who don’t meet that criteria, the lawsuit says, arguing that they will have “no voice” in decisions to unionize.

Earlier this month, Teamsters Local 117 got permission from the city to begin trying to organize drivers, sparking the drivers’ lawsuit.

According to the law’s implementation timeline, companies must turn over their drivers’ contact information to the union early next month. That is, unless the court intervenes.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien proposed the ordinance, saying in 2015 Seattle has been a leader in protecting workers, though independent contractors have largely been unable to benefit because they’re not classified as employees and therefore aren’t guaranteed bargaining rights under the NLRA.

The National Right to Work Foundation in a news release said “a number of concerned drivers” have reached out for legal help since the ordinance’s passage.

The drivers’ lawsuit isn’t the first legal challenge against the law.

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce refiled a lawsuit after suing last year. A federal judge dismissed that first lawsuit in August, calling it premature.

And in January, Uber filed a legal challenge in King County Superior Court, saying the city denied drivers an opportunity to meaningfully comment as officials decided rules for the ordinance, among other claims.

Both Uber and Lyft oppose Seattle’s unionization law.


Material from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report. Jessica Lee: 206-464-2532 or jlee@seattletimes.com. If you have any questions, tips or story ideas, please send them trafficlab@seattletimes.com.