Gig News: Union Files NLRB Petition to Represent Uber Drivers in New York

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

POLITICO New York reports that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1430 filed a formal petition with the National Labor Relations Board to represent 600 Uber drivers who serve New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.  The NLRB case number is 29-RC-168855.  The filing of the petition is believed to be the first formal attempt to organize Uber drivers in New York, and comes in the midst of mounting dissatisfaction and protest by Uber drivers in New York and elsewhere.  In filing the petition, the IBEW claims that the Uber drivers are employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The IBEW checked off that 30% or more of the drivers in the proposed bargaining unit wish to be represented by the union, and said the 600 drivers include “all full time and regular part time taxicab drivers employed by Uber” working from LaGuardia.  In seeking to be recognized as the drivers’ bargaining representative, the IBEW calls for a representation election at LaGuardia this month.  More from POLITICO New York:

Jordan El-Hag, the Armonk union’s business manager and attorney, said that drivers serving Laguardia make an appropriate unit because “they’re somewhat structured under hubs at Uber.”

“There are regulars that go to work at that location,” he said. “That’s based on the initial information we gathered.”

He said the board would probably have to hold hearings to determine whether the Laguardia unit was appropriate, and that he expects Uber to challenge the filing.

The story also notes opposition by Uber, which disputes that it employs the drivers, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which organized this week’s protests and claims that it already has organized 5,000 New York drivers and would also seek to represent them.

The most pressing, threshold issue with respect to the representation of Uber drivers is whether they are employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act.  While the Seattle City Council unanimously passed historic legislation that gives independent contractor drivers the right to collectively bargain there, under New York and federal law the Uber drivers would have to be found to be statutory employees.

The National Labor Relations Board has yet to find that Uber drivers are employees under the NLRA, but a recent decision by an NLRB Regional Director could prove to be influential and indicative of how the Board could find the drivers employees.  In that decision, AAA Transportation/Yellow Cab (Tucson Hacks Association), Regional Director Cornele A. Overstreet found taxi drivers similarly situated to Uber drivers to be NLRB employees since the employer (acting similarly to Uber) exercised a sufficient level of control over drivers, constrained drivers’ ability to advertise, limited the ability of drivers to select trips, and lacked entrepreneurial opportunity, among other factors.  The NLRB will now be faced with the question of whether the Uber drivers serving LaGuardia are similarly covered, and if so the IBEW could be poised to make history.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.