Seattle Won’t Enforce Driver-for-Hire Union Law, For Now

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By Jon Steingart

Uber and Lyft won a reprieve March 30 when a Seattle city attorney said the municipality will delay enforcement of its first-in-the-nation law that lets ride-hail drivers join labor unions ( Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. v. City of Seattle, W.D. Wash., No. 2:17-cv-00370, oral argument 3/30/17 ).

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently asked a court to hit pause on both the ordinance and an April 3 deadline for Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., plus a third ride-hail company called East Side for Hire Co., to submit driver information to Local 117 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The local union won recognition as a “qualified driver representative” under the ordinance, which lets it move forward with an attempt to organize drivers.

Seattle won’t enforce the deadline until Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington rules on the Chamber’s motion, said Charlotte Garden, a Seattle University School of Law professor who attended a court hearing where Chamber and city lawyers debated the motion.

Ruling May Come After Companies’ Deadline

Lasnik said he hadn’t been able to devote as much attention to the briefs filed ahead of the hearing because he’d been presiding over a two-week criminal trial, Garden told Bloomberg BNA March 31. “He indicated that he might be interested in doing something that preserves the status quo just to give himself time to decide,” she said.

The judge said he’d try to reach a decision by Friday, March 31, but that it could come as late as Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, April 4 or 5, said Garden, who teaches labor law. A source familiar with the litigation confirmed to Bloomberg BNA the delay in enforcement and the timeline for Lasnik’s ruling.

The lawyer arguing for Seattle offered to delay enforcement in response to the possibility that Lasnik’s decision would come after the companies’ April 3 deadline to turn over driver information. “I think the city attorney didn’t want to have the judge enter an order that would carry any implication that Judge Lasnik had made any determination on the merits,” Garden said.

Lasnik must find a likelihood of the Chamber’s success down the road in order to grant its request for a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order. The Chamber, Uber, Lyft, and East Side for Hire all contend that federal labor and antitrust laws preempt Seattle’s ordinance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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