Uber, Lyft drivers clearly divided over unionization in Seattle

Dec 7, 2016, 10:06 AM

The City of Seattle will allow Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize next year, but the drivers themselves still have to decide if that’s what they want.

And it was obvious at Tuesday night’s packed city hall hearing that they’re divided.

“The Union would have no place in Uber,” one driver said. “All they are going to is stifle us and make us follow rules that we did not sign up for.”

“I’m voting for the union,” another said. “I’m fighting for respect. I’m fighting for a living wage.”

Related: Mayor opposes ride-share union law

The biggest disagreement is over who actually gets the right to vote on forming a union.

The city’s rule would limit the voting to “qualified drivers” — defined as the most active drivers –with 52 rides over a three-month period. But less active drivers think they should have a vote as well.

Uber management has opposed the union idea and some Uber drivers agree.

“I’m a partner in Uber with this thing,” one driver said. “The qualified driver thing that you guys have come up with is basically voter rigging because you don’t want everybody to vote. [It’s] like the last election we had, the vote of everybody clearly did not count because we got Trump.”

In general, part-time drivers feel there are already enough rules. Full-time drivers, however, say their pay is shrinking and the company can change the rules at any time. They worry about being kicked off the app if they support the union.

A full-time driver named Akile , says people like him need a union.

“We have a lot of drivers who are hardly paying insurance right now,” he said.

But another driver disagreed, especially with claims by city council members that driver pay often falls below minimum wage.

“I’ve heard drivers complaining about not making enough money, to which I say, if you’re not averaging $20 an hour, you’re either not working hard enough or smart enough.”

Bruce Hablas, another anti-union driver, says changes to the rules through the ordinance could cause him to lose his right to operate his private business and that it “certainly seems illegal.”

But Don Creary, a three-year Uber veteran with more than 10,000 rides, called out part-time drivers for not having a real stake in collective bargaining discussions.

Seattle would be the first city to allow unionized ride-share drivers, and Eric Grant, who identified himself as a 55-year-old “independent rideshare business owner,” said city council members would feel the heat at the next election if they don’t let every driver vote.

“No official will be immune to the political and legal firestorm that is about to take place in response to this egregious attack on independent business owners,” he said. “Every business owner deserves a vote.”

Grant specifically called out council President Bruce Harrell and council member Mike O’Brien.

“You’re 117,000 salaries the citizens pay you will also be in jeopardy,” Grant said. “You have underestimated the determination and resolve of the entrepreneurs myself and fellow … business owners.”

Collective bargaining legislation is slated to take effect Jan. 17. If it passes, every ride share driver would be required to join the union to continue working.

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Uber, Lyft drivers clearly divided over unionization in Seattle