A petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board by Armonk, New York-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1430, seeking an election to represent a unit of 600 “full-time and regular part-time taxicab drivers employed by Uber working from the Laguardia [sic] airport” has sparked infighting at the AFL-CIO, the IBEW’s parent organization.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), also a member of the AFL-CIO, contends it, not the IBEW, is the labor organization best suited to represent the drivers. According to the International Business Times, IAM’s general vice president, James Conigliaro, suggested a more “thought out” plan was needed “to organize the multi-billion dollar company.” He further stated the 600-person unit suggested in IBEW’s petition addresses “just a fraction of the roughly 30,000 Uber drivers across New York City.”
The Board has granted the AFL-CIO’s request to stay an election for 40 days to allow the AFL-CIO time to resolve the dispute. If an internal resolution cannot be reached, the case will be transferred to an independent arbitrator for a decision.
In January 2016, Uber decreased fares in several cities across the United States and Canada. Not surprisingly, drivers were not happy. At New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, which serviced almost 27 million passengers in 2014, approximately 50 disgruntled Uber drivers protested and went on strike in early February 2016 to oppose the reduced fares. Not only did passengers take notice of the striking drivers, but the IBEW did as well.
The IBEW is none-too-happy about the election delay. According to International Business Times, IBEW Local 1430’s business manager, Jordan El-Hag, thinks the IAM believes Local 1430 “stepped onto IAM turf.” El-Hag noted that the IAM’s move was “somewhat of a surprise, …. There’s been no presence of Machinists among drivers we’ve talked to.” He rejected any suggestion that the request for a delay in the election was a “friendly gesture” — saying no one from the Machinists contacted him before the union requested the delay.
The petition marks another step toward attempted unionization of app-based transportation workers across the country. In December 2015, the Seattle City Council enacted an ordinance giving drivers of such companies the right to organize those drivers and to bargain collectively. We will be watching closely and will report on further developments.