A King County judge today rejected a request from Uber subsidiary Rasier to block several key provisions of Seattle’s historic law that lets drivers for ride-hailing companies decide if they want to bargain collectively. The decision represents a win for the city, which is defending the law on several legal fronts.
Uber filed its petition in King County Superior Court in January to block several rules published last year from Seattle’s department of Finance and Administrative Services. Those rules cover issues like which drivers get a say in whether they want to unionize, working conditions subject to bargaining and how an organization gets certified to represent drivers exclusively.
The main issue in this case, and also the most contentious aspect of the law, concerns which drivers get to vote on unionization. According to the city’s rules, new drivers who had been with their respective ride-hailing companies for less than 90 days prior to the Jan. 17 kick-off of the law will not get a vote. Drivers also need to have made 52 trips starting or ending in Seattle during any three-month period in the last year to be eligible.
Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft favor giving every driver a vote, without the type of restrictions in Seattle’s rules.
Uber argued that the city’s process was flawed and will disenfranchise thousands of drivers. Uber hoped to get major pieces of the law suspended to effectively block the ordinance and force the city to go back to the drawing board. Uber wanted the city to tweak the rules so that they better reflect the conditions of the industry.
Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest Brooke Steger released the following statement in reaction to the ruling:
The city’s collective bargaining ordinance rules deny thousands of Seattle drivers a voice and a vote on their future. We were forced to pursue a novel legal approach because the City provided no other way to challenge this deeply flawed process. We appreciate Judge Andrus’s consideration of the suit. Seattle should be working to give drivers a voice rather than denying them one. We will continue to look for ways to raise these very serious concerns.
Based on the scope of the court, for Uber to come out victorious, King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus would have had to find that the city crafted major pieces of the law arbitrarily, without taking evidence and data under consideration. Uber’s legal representatives conceded during the hearing that convincing the court otherwise was a high bar to clear, and Andrus ultimately ruled that Uber hadn’t been able to prove that.
After issuing her ruling, Andrus said the issue at hand was not whether the city made the right decision on who can vote on unionization, but whether the city followed a legally acceptable process in making its rules.
“Ultimately the court must apply the arbitrary and capricious standard and not make a determination based on what I would might find to be not the right way to go, it’s not my call,” Andrus said. “I look at ‘what did the city do how, did the city reach its decision?’”