Today’s News & Commentary — December 15, 2015


Published December 15th, 2015 - 12.15.154


In a follow-up to yesterday’s news, Seattle voted yesterday to pass an ordinance allowing the city’s for-hire drivers (including Uber, app-assisted, and taxi drivers) the right to form a union, according to the Seattle Times.  Uber and Lyft have contended that the ordinance violates federal law, presumably under a claim that the NLRA preempts the local regulation.  The Seattle ordinance seeks to avoid this preemption by adopting, perhaps ironically, the companies’ contention that the drivers are independent contractors, which supporters of the measure claim put the law outside the ambit of NLRA preemption.  Former NLRA Chair Wilma Liebman explained the issue to the Huffington Post, stating, “The Seattle law is intended to give collective bargaining rights to those who are independent contractors. . . . To that extent, there’s no pre-emption problem.”

The Seattle bill may simply be a harbinger of much greater movement to come if a bill proposed in the California legislature becomes law.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the bill appears to bear a striking resemblance to the Seattle measure.  If passed, it would authorize independent contractors in the gig economy to bargain collectively for wages.  The article made clear that if Uber drivers ultimately win their lawsuit to be classified as workers, they will not be eligible for the organizing protections of the new law.   Even the bill’s sponsors, however, discounted the possibility of it being signed into law.  “This is going to be tough, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said. “But tough in a good way. I want to challenge people to think about this. It will require my colleagues to really stretch.”

Yesterday the Chicago Teachers Union voted to authorize its union leaders to call a strike as early as March if its negotiations with the Chicago Board of Education remain stymied into the new year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  An overwhelming 96.5% of the 92% of teachers who turned out to vote approved of the strike authorization, easily meeting the required 75% approval required by Illinois law.  Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the union, played on the turmoil surrounding Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration in demanding that he meet the teachers’ demands. “Rahm Emanuel really does not need a teachers strike,” Sharkey said. “And what we’re telling him is if he doesn’t listen to us, that’s what he’ll get.”

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