Judge blocks Seattle law that allowed Uber, Lyft drivers to unionize

Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle won’t be able to unionize after all — at least not for the time being.

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily suspended the nation’s first law that gave the ride-hailing drivers collective bargaining rights. The law won’t be enforced until the court has a chance to weigh the broader implications it holds for the country’s labor policies.

The ruling is a win for Uber and Lyft, which have opposed the ordinance.

“The issues raised in this litigation are novel, they are complex, and they reside at the intersection of national policies that have been decades in the making,” U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik wrote, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration.”

The order came in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to the Seattle law, USA Today reported. The Chamber argued the law classified drivers as employees, when really they are independent contractors with no collective bargaining power.

Whether Uber and Lyft drivers are employees or contractors is a controversial question with a long history. Groups of drivers have sued both companies demanding employee benefits such as overtime pay, minimum wage and reimbursement for gas and other driving expenses. Uber and Lyft insist their drivers must maintain their independent contractor status to protect the flexible work schedules that make the gigs appealing.

After a three-year court battle, a federal court in San Francisco finalized a $27 million settlement last month in the Lyft case that does not force the ride-hailing company to change its drivers’ status.

A similar case against Uber is ongoing after a judge rejected a settlement that would have forced the ride-hailing giant to pay up to $100 million. But the case faces a major setback following the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that many Uber drivers must make their claims against the company in individual arbitration, rather than in court as a group.

Photo: A vehicle with both Lyft and Uber windshield decals is parked Monday afternoon Dec. 14, 2015, near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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