The City of Seattle has distinguished itself in a lot of ways recently. It’s the only major city that boasts of a socialist as a city council member. It was the first major city to pass a $15 minimum wage which discriminates against franchise small businesses. And, it was one of the first to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
Now, in keeping with its laughing-stock reputation, it is the first city in the United States to give independent contractors who work as taxi, for-hire and Uber drivers the ability to unionize.
On Monday, Seattle City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that seeks to force for-hire vehicle companies like Uber and Lyft to collectively bargain with organizations representing drivers. Far-left Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who uses city council time to pursue his kayaktivist endeavors, sponsored the bill. That it passed without dissent should come as no surprise, because after all, O’Brien partnered with Teamsters Local 117 to introduce the legislation, and the rest of his council colleagues like Teamster campaign cash.
The ride-share industry is not alone in dealing with the consequences of the ordinance. Seattle’s new law promises to set a precedent with the potential to impact more traditional businesses which rely heavily on contract workers, such as Microsoft. As the Seattle Times reported, under the legislation, for workers who chose by majority vote to be represented in collective bargaining, any breakdowns in the bargaining process would result in to arbitration. The courts would enforce any resulting contracts.
The city can expect a lawsuit as a consequence of its new law. According to legal experts and the act’s opponents, the ordinance conflicts with federal law. The law is based on certain protections implemented by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which grants employees the right to collective bargaining. However, the NLRA does not provide that for independent contractors. Additionally, local governments do not have the authority to regulate collective bargaining.
Not that the city cares about wasting taxpayer money on a losing lawsuit. The whacky left viewpoint on this is best expressed by newly-elected Council member Lorena Gonzalez to Publicola, who actually is an attorney with a unique view of the law – we don’t need to follow it.
“These are how movements get built regardless of whether it’s legal or not,” (Gonzalez) said. ‘Really what we’re looking at is whether independent contractors have the right to unionize and negotiate their own working conditions. They are not covered by the Labor Relations Act. [So] We won’t know unless we push the envelope on this and this is an area worth pushing the envelope.”
This is not the first time the Seattle City Council attempted to regulate the ride-share industry. In 2013, Seattle council members passed and attempted to enforce a series of strict regulations on ride-share companies.
Lyft and Uber did not take that attack sitting down. The two companies launched a campaign for a ballot referendum that would have allowed voters to decide on whether to keep or toss the regulations. The referendum garnered enough signatures to automatically suspend the regulations until a vote could take place.
Eventually, due to backlash, the council voted to repeal the regulations they previously placed on the ride-share industry and opted for a compromise that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was forced to broker between the ride-share industry and Seattle’s taxi monopoly.
Uber also had a clever way to respond to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempts to regulate the ride-share industry by limiting how many drivers they may hire. Uber responded by producing an app called the “de Blasio option” that allows users to see how much longer they would have to wait if de Blasio’s regulations were implemented.
Democrats all over the nation seem obsessed with accommodating special interests—particularly the labor unions that help fund their campaigns – by regulating companies like Uber and Lyft. John Stossel recently wrote via Townhall,
“Democrats hate what labor unions hate, and a taxi drivers’ union hates Uber, too. Its NYC website proclaims, ‘Uber has the money. But we are the PEOPLE!’”
“The taxi cartels, which provide inferior service and are micromanaged by government, don’t like getting competition from efficient companies like Uber.”
Even Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton tossed in her two cents on the evils of the rideshare industry back in July. In a speech she warned that the new “sharing economy” of businesses like Uber is “raising hard questions about workplace protections.” According to reports, Clinton “contacted Uber and told them her speech would threaten to ‘crack down’ on companies that don’t treat independent contractors as full employees.”
Apparently, Democrats no longer approve of independent contract workers. Stossel writes,
“But no driver is forced to work for Uber. People volunteer. They like the flexibility. They like getting more use out of their cars. It’s win-win-win. Drivers earn money, customers save money while gaining convenience and Uber makes money. Why does Clinton insist on interfering with that?”
The problem with lawmakers’ attacks against companies—especially those created by innovative ideas—is the “chilling effect on others.” Once again, Stossel puts it best when he writes,
“The ‘independent contractor’ assault will destroy all sorts of companies we’ll never even know about because now they won’t come into existence…
“Some of the entrepreneurs who dreamed of starting them will look at the additional costs, crunch the numbers and decide there’s not enough profit potential to risk investing their money.”
The Democrats’ war on innovation and the ride-share industry exposes just how far they will go to appease their campaign-funding special interests. Democrats have proved, time and time again, that they are more than willing to implement stifling regulations that hurt innovation in order to benefit the unions that heavily fund their campaigns.