• Rideshare drivers win first union vote at Seattle City Council

    By: Essex Porter


    SEATTLE - The push to unionize drivers for Uber and other rideshare companies has received a big boost from the Seattle City Council.

    A council committee voted unanimously to support a new law requiring the companies to accept unions.       

    Uber and Lyft driver Takele Gobena told the Council’s Finance Committee that once his expenses are deducted, he doesn't make minimum wage.

    That’s why he’s in favor of requiring the companies to accept unions.

    “Please, save us. Save our future, save our community, save our family,” said Gobena to council members.

    Uber is valued at $51 billion, and Lyft is valued at $2.5 billion.

    The legislation would apply to Seattle's taxi- and driver-for-hire companies too.

    “We work hard. We make [the] company profitable, but we never get anything,” said driver Walelean Balcha.

    The law would work by defining drivers as company employees rather than independent contractors—so they can then vote on whether to unionize.

    The companies say that violates federal labor law.

    “We urge the committee to avoid a rush decision and to seriously consider the implications of these legal realities,” said Uber’s Catlin O'Neill.

    Lyft says forcing the company to accept unions would raise prices for passengers.

    Tim Or, a musician and Lyft driver, worried about union rules.

    “I'm just concerned about my long-term ability to control my own schedule, which Lyft has always allowed me to do,” said Or.

    The committee considered waiting, but ultimately voted 7 to 0 to pass the ordinance on for full council approval. 

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