On Monday, the Seattle City Council passed a highly controversial bill purporting to allow individuals who drive for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft to unionize. The law would further permit the Director of the Department of Finance and Administrative Services to appoint an exclusive driver representative and compel the rideshare companies to bargain with that representative. Only hours after the law was passed, Seattle’s Mayor, Ed Murray, announced that he would refuse to sign the bill because the version presented to him did not address his concerns concerning cost borne by the city or the process by which driver representatives would be selected. However, under the Seattle City Code, the law will become law notwithstanding the mayor’s refusal to sign it.
The bill is the first piece of legislation purporting to grant collective bargaining rights to independent contractors, who otherwise are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The bill is almost certain to face legal challenge as it appears to conflict with court decisions establishing NLRA preemption.