In a significant vote last December, Seattle City Council unanimously passed legislation that gave all for-hire (Lyft, Uber, taxi and limo) drivers the right to a legally recognized voice on the job. This innovative new law made the city the first in the country to extend the ability to collectively negotiate for better work conditions to drivers currently classified as independent contractors. The effort, led by Teamsters Local 117 and Working Washington, was supported by Partnership for Working Family (PWF) affiliate Puget Sound Sage.
Sage did substantial research into how the ordinance would impact Seattle and the broader public. In the joint report, Driving Public Good, Sage and PWF found that not only would the legislation give drivers the ability to bargain for fair conditions and wages, but it would also contribute to a safe and reliable transportation system for everyone living in or visiting Seattle. When drivers bargain for changes that address some of the most problematic aspects of for-hire transportation, including driver fatigue and driving safety, spread of illness between drivers and passengers, driver experience, cost of rides, accessibility issues and work stoppages, the benefits extend to passengers, pedestrians, disabled riders and the whole community.
Sage and other local organizers say the legislation will help build on the city’s efforts to address inequality and set an example for how cities around the country can address the challenges tied to the for-hire driver industry. Full-time Uber, taxi and Lyft drivers often report driving extremely long hours just to be able to cover their bills. Drivers have come forward to reveal that at times they are averaging below minimum wage. In Seattle, giving these drivers a mechanism for raising standards in their industry will help protect and expand the gains made with $15 minimum wage and paid sick days.
While Seattle is sure to face a legal battle from multi-billion dollar businesses that have an interest in keeping their workforce as cheap as possible, the momentum built by the drivers is unstoppable. Drivers are standing up for a voice across the country and Seattle’s new law gives cities a mechanism for supporting them while improving transportation for the entire community.