Judge dismisses challenge to law giving Uber, Lyft drivers right to organize

Judge dismisses challenge to law giving Uber, Lyft drivers right to organize
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A federal judge late Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Seattle law that will give Uber and Lyft drivers the ability to bargain collectively.

The new city ordinance, which was approved by the Seattle City Council last year, will grant the right to organize through a nonprofit to ride-hail and taxi drivers. It was challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a national trade group that includes Uber as one of its members.

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But Judge Robert Lasnik said the lobbying group lacked the standing to pursue the case and that it was too early for a challenge to the law, which has yet to go into effect.

"Neither of the Chambers’ members has suffered an injury that is traceable to the Ordinance and would be redressed if the Ordinance were declared invalid or enforcement were otherwise enjoined,” Lasnik said in his ruling, referring to Uber and East Side For Hire, a more traditional transportation firm.

The Chamber, in a statement responding to the decision, said that Lasnik during oral arguments had expressed a willingness to hear a challenge to the law at a later date.

“The City has merely delayed coming to grips with the legal flaws at the heart of this ordinance at great cost and uncertainty to the taxpayers of Seattle,” a spokesperson for the group said. “We urge the City to reevaluate whether it should defend this law in court.”

The first-of-its-kind law in Seattle strikes at the core issue of a debate over labor in the so-called on-demand economy, which allows consumers to order a service or good at the tap of a smartphone screen. Uber and Lyft both use independent contractors, instead of employees who would likely get more benefits, to staff their services.

That’s led many to call for regulators or lawmakers to find a way to empower those workers. Seattle’s law giving for-hire drivers the right to organize would give ride-hail drivers a collective-bargaining unit to which they have not previously had access.

Uber has seemingly moved to address the concerns behind the law in its own way. It announced earlier this year that, as part of a settlement with drivers, it would work with a labor union to create an association for its New York drivers. But the move stops short of giving the drivers a traditional union.