A Voice for Drivers: A Complex Solution

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I support the effort to offer independent contractors needed protections in an evolving and competitive industry. This past Friday, the Committee on Finance and Culture unanimously voted to create collective bargaining protections for for-hire drivers in Seattle.

I’ve heard significant public testimony and met with unions, taxis, Uber, Lyft, and independent drivers regarding this legislation. For-hire drivers, Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft, and the City have a shared interest in the economic security and fair treatment of drivers.  The Council now has a significant policy decision to make regarding the use of the City’s police power to improve worker conditions. I firmly believe the Council can and should craft a fair and well-thought out system to protect both drivers and consumers.

Employees have basic employment protections and are able to negotiate additional terms. At the very minimum, contracted drivers also should have a say in the basic terms of their contracts.

The City has long regulated taxis and other forms of for-hire drivers. These protections provide basic safety requirements, insurance minimums, and an important price floor for part of the industry to ensure drivers can make a reasonable wage. But TNCs are not subject to the same wage floor requirements. Drivers for TNCs have claimed that they earn below the minimum wage and are subject to arbitrary dismissal.

Citizens of Seattle have an interest in ensuring that all workers have basic protections. These workers are our family members, friends, neighbors.  They contribute to our economy, they provide an important service and they deserve to have fair wages and working conditions. But even more importantly, they deserve to have a voice.

The Council will carefully weigh the benefit of protecting drivers against the costs of potential litigation and monetary damages. We will also consider the impact on the many part-time drivers who enjoy the flexibility TNCs offer. While difficult and unprecedented, this is the type of legislation Councilmembers were elected to handle.