Today, the City Council Is Considering a Bill That Would Let Rideshare Drivers Unionize

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Corey Fedde at the Christian Science Monitor says:

Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien has proposed a bill to help Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize in Seattle. The proposed bill would provide a route to collective bargaining and could have dramatic impact on the ride-service and taxi industries. If passed, Seattle would be the first city in the nation to legally mandate the right to unionize for drivers using ride share web applications.

The bill is being discussed today in Council chambers. This is a big deal. Mike Isaac, Nick Wingfield, and Noam Scheiber explain why it’s important in the New York Times. They open their story with a driver named Don Creery who invested in a new car because his work for Uber and Lyft was paying so well. Of course, things went awry:

Since then, Uber and Lyft have cut the rates they charge passengers for rides and ended the incentives used to recruit drivers. Mr. Creery said he now has to drive 10 to 12 hours a day to make the amount of money he once did working six to eight hours.

It’s because of experiences like Creery’s that the bill is being disussed. Civic Skunkworks co-founder Nick Hanauer was quoted in the same New York Times article, calling the bid to unionize a “step in the right direction in terms of trying to bring some sanity and balance to these new business models.”

Of course, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Hanauer and SEIU 775NW president David Rolf also proposed another solution for the problem of the sharing economy. It’s called a Shared Security System, and it would ensure that workers in the sharing economy would enjoy the same benefits and pay as workers in more traditional circumstances. This isn’t a punitive measure for businesses in the sharing economy, it’s a way to resolve problems of staffing in an equitable manner, leveling the playing field for all employers so that sharing economy businesses can quit racing to the bottom and really get down to the business of innovation.

But Hanauer is right; this move to permit unionization is an excellent first step down the path to responsible employment in the sharing economy. All eyes are on the council today—here’s hoping they make the right choice.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.