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Councilmember O’Brien Proposes Innovative Legislation to Give Drivers a Voice on the Job

City of Seattle
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 8/31/2015

Councilmember O’Brien Proposes Innovative Legislation to Give Drivers a Voice on the Job

SEATTLE – City Councilmember Mike O’Brien will introduce new legislation next week that would give eligible drivers at taxi, for-hire, and transportation network companies (“TNCs”, e.g., Uber, Lyft) a voice on the job and the opportunity to negotiate for improved working conditions at their companies.

“Seattle has made great gains in recent years in promoting fair labor practices and the opportunity to earn a decent living, this is the next step in that work,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Too many drivers in this industry are unable to earn a living wage, or even the minimum wage. So we are embarking on an innovative new approach to raising standards for drivers in an industry that prides itself on innovation. We know that when workers come together to use their collective voice, they can make meaningful changes in their pay and working conditions.”

“Drivers just want the same rights as other workers in Seattle,” said Takele Woldemariam with the App-Based Drivers Association. “I got help from a C.P.A. to prepare my 2014 taxes. He told me I made $2.75 an hour last year as an UberX driver.”

“My community is deeply affected by this issue. These used to be good jobs, and they can be good jobs again. Drivers just don’t want to be exploited,” said Fasil Teka with the App-Based Drivers Association.

These drivers are considered independent contractors and, as such, are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act that provides for collective bargaining between employers and unions representing employees. Independent contractors are also excluded from a host of labor standards other workers have, such as minimum wage and hour laws, health and safety standards on the job, or reimbursements for workplace related costs. Over the past few years, Seattle has implemented ordinances to raise local labor standards that these drivers are exempt from, including the new minimum wage, paid sick and safe leave, wage theft, and fair chance employment. This legislation would give drivers a chance to address these issues in their industry.

The legislation would create a process whereby a majority of independently contracted drivers working for the same company could choose to join a Driver Representative organization to negotiate the pay rates and conditions of their employment. It also establishes penalties for failure to comply with the new framework, including interest arbitration, the possibility of fines, or the revocation of regulatory licenses.

The legislation will be formally introduced at the next Full Council meeting on September 8, the day after Labor Day. The first committee discussion will take place on Wednesday, September 9 at 2:00pm in the Finance & Culture Committee.

For more information on the legislation, refer to this page Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/VoiceForDrivers/.

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