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US: Seattle to decide whether to let Uber, Lyft drivers unionize

 |  December 13, 2015

Seattle may soon become the first city to let drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft collectively bargain over pay and working conditions, a move opposed by the companies and one seen as a test case for the changing 21st century workforce.

The city council is to vote Monday on whether to extend collective bargaining rights for drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based ride-hailing services that are part of the growing on-demand economy.

A national leader on workers’ rights, Seattle was among the first cities to pass laws to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 and require most employers to provide paid sick leave.

But Councilmember Mike O’Brien says for-hire drivers as independent contractors are excluded from such protections. He wants to take the next step in the fight for workers’ rights and give them a say in their working conditions. Independent contractors aren’t covered by the National Labor Relations Act, which allows for collective bargaining.

Many drivers in Seattle are immigrants who depend on full-time work, but some make less than minimum wage and don’t have basic worker rights, such as sick leave or protection from retaliation, O’Brien said.

“This feels like the right thing to do,” said O’Brien, who expects a legal fight if the measure passes. “We don’t take legal challenges lightly, but we recognize that businesses sue when they disagree with our policies.”

Full content: U.S. News

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