Seattle Votes to Give Drivers a Voice on the Job

December 14, 2015 -- Partnership for Working Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2015

Contact: Jamie Way, 


In unanimous vote, city becomes first to give all for-hire drivers the right to a collective action

Nationwide – In a historic unanimous vote this afternoon, Seattle became the first city to help ensure safe and reliable transportation by giving all for-hire drivers – including Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers – a right to speak out collectively about workplace concerns.

“I’m so happy that my coworkers and I will now have a way to resolve the issues we’re facing at work. We called for action and our city listened,” said Seattle Uber driver Papa Diawara. “I’m hopeful that this new law will give us a way to keep the best parts of our job, while working with our company to make sure Uber jobs are good jobs and that we can provide the best service possible for our customers.”

The legislation is the first of its type in the country. While legal battles rage across the nation over app-based drivers’ current legal classification as independent contractors – a status which denies them access to basic worker protections like minimum wage, workers’ compensation and overtime – the Seattle Giving Drivers a Voice law ensures that all for-hire drivers, including taxi, limo, Uber and Lyft drivers, have the right to a voice on the job. City Council Member Mike O’Brien sponsored and was a leading proponent of the innovative legislation.

“Today, we set an example for how cities across the country can work to ensure safe, reliable transportation and basic worker protections in our current legal landscape,” said City Council Member Mike O’Brien. “As a Council Member, I recognize the importance of giving businesses the flexibility to innovate, while also making sure working people and our community have access to good jobs and services. This legislation is an important step forward in creating the conditions in which our whole community can thrive.”

For-hire rides provided by taxis and app-based companies like Uber number 5 million a year in Seattle and King County, making for-hire rides an important part of the city’s transportation system. Yet, a patchwork of city regulation helped create 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 exacerbated that instability.

“Our concern is creating jobs and a transportation system that raise up all of our communities in Seattle,” said Puget Sound Sage Executive Director Rebecca Saldaña. “That means drivers are safe and can care for their families. The means passengers have reliable and safe transportation, including women and disabled passengers. We believe this new law will benefit everyone who wants to drive, needs a ride or relies on for-hire cars to move their community.”

The passage of the Giving Drivers a Voice comes as the national debate around the on-demand workforce grows. Just last 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. It also comes just a month after talks of nationwide Uber strikes emerged among self-organized drivers online.

“In Seattle and beyond, we see drivers coming together to address their concerns on the job,” said Partnership for Working Families Director Nikki Fortunato Bas. “This legislation will give drivers a clear mechanism to do just that, ultimately improving transportation for the entire city. This law is the first in what is likely to be a rising wave of innovative approaches to updating a legal framework that ensures all workers in the on-demand and sub-contracted economies have access to the basic rights they deserve.”


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,, and our blog,

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