FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2015
Contact: Jamie Way, Jamie@ForWorkingFamilies.org
In advance of Seattle Council’s vote to grant all for-hire drivers a voice on the job,
NEW REPORT REVEALS COLLECTIVE BARGAINING INCREASES SAFETY & RELIABILITY IN CITY TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
Finds benefits of giving workers a mechanism to speak out for change go beyond drivers, extend to entire community
Nationwide – While the right for workers to come together and negotiate has long been seen as a tool for improving work conditions, a new report argues the related benefits extend far beyond worker self-interest.
“Our research shows that when workers in the transportation sector join together and advocate as a group for better work conditions, that actually has the positive effect of making the transportation system safer and more reliable,” said Rebecca Saldaña, Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage, which released the report in conjunction with Partnership for Working Families. “Benefits like increased wages, paid sick days and additional training mean that drivers are more experienced, better rested and less likely to interrupt service over labor disputes.”
The report release comes as Seattle’s City Council prepares to vote on legislation that would afford all for-hire drivers in the city – including Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers – the right to a collective voice on the job, regardless of employment status. Currently, many taxi and app-based drivers are considered independent contractors rather than employees. While this status is being hotly contested in legal battles across the country, Seattle’s innovative legislation would allow the city to improve transit reliability and safety in the current legal environment.
“I want flexibility, but I also want to be able to provide for my family and give our customers the safe, dependable service they deserve. That’s just not the case when I’m forced to drive 12 hours a day to cover my bills,” said Seattle Uber driver Peter Kuel. “And that’s why having a voice on the job is so important. It will give me a chance at caring for my 12-year-old daughter and being better at my job. Ultimately that’s not just good for me; that’s good for Seattle.”
The vote on the Giving Drivers a Voice legislation will take place. All this comes as the national debate around the on-demand workforce grows. Just earlier this week, a highly-watched class-action lawsuit brought against Uber in California picked up momentum as the judge expanded the class to include a broader swath of drivers. The suit challenges Uber’s claim that drivers should be considered independent contractors, rather than employees, a status which denies them basic employee benefits.
“Around the country taxi and app-based drivers are taking a variety of approaches to improving their jobs and making for-hire transportation work for all communities,”said Partnership for Working Families Executive Director Nikki Fortunato Bas. “Seattle's drivers, and visionary city leaders like Mike O'Brien, are breaking new ground in building a safer, more reliable and just for-hire transportation system. This is the kind of innovative approach we'll need to create good jobs in our ever-changing economy."
The report, entitled Driving Public Good, details how giving workers a voice on the job can address many of the issues that create problems for drivers. This includes driver fatigue and driving safety, spread of illness between drivers and passengers, driver experience, cost of rides and work stoppages. You can find the full report here.
For-hire rides provided by taxis and app-based companies like Uber number 5 million a year in Seattle, making for-hire transportation an important part of the city’s transit system. Yet, cycles of de- and re-regulation created a fragmented for-hire industry in which problems with safety and reliability abound and drivers struggle to provide safe and reliable transportation to riders.
The introduction of on-demand ride services further exacerbated that instability. While regulators historically set taxi fares and limits on the number of drivers in a particular geography, new for-hire providers are widely reported to make frequent and unilateral changes to fares and increases to company commissions. By some estimates, two-thirds of app-based drivers have been on the job for six months or less, suggesting an inexperienced and unstable workforce. Drivers across the country have reportedly staged public protests and work stoppages in cities like Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Phoenix in response to their working conditions. Such dynamics can negatively impact public safety and reliability. In order to address these issues, the city must provide proper oversight and mechanisms for drivers and companies to resolve these issues.
Puget Sound Sage works to promote good jobs, quality employment opportunities, a cleaner environment and affordable housing for low/moderate income families in the Seattle metropolitan area. Our mission is to ensure that all families benefit from economic growth, and that local and regional policy decisions meet the social and environmental needs of our communities. Sage provides timely, critical research on issues of the regional economy, jobs, housing and the environment. Find more information at our website, www.pugetsoundsage.org, and our blog, soundprogress.wordpress.com
Partnership for Working Families is a national network of 17 powerful city and regional affiliate groups based in major urban areas across the country. We advocate for and support policies and movements that help build more just and sustainable communities where we live and work. We strive to take lessons learned at the local level and apply them to the national conversation to build a framework for addressing climate change, inequality, racial and social injustice. Learn more at forworkingfamilies.org