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Transportation The Courts United States

Uber Sues City of Seattle To Block Landmark Driver Union Ordinance (geekwire.com) 123

Seattle's landmark law that lets drivers for ride-hailing companies decide if they want to bargain collectively was set to go into effect today, but an Uber subsidiary has sued to block key rules of the ordinance governing which drivers get to vote on unionization and other key rules. From a report: Uber subsidiary Rasier filed a petition in King County Superior Court Tuesday to block recently-published rules from Seattle's department of Finance and Administrative Services that 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. In court documents, Uber called the city's process flawed and asked the court to suspend the new rules. Uber wants the city to go back and tweak the rules so that they better reflect driver conditions in the ride-hailing industry. "The City failed to provide comprehensive rules and disregarded the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry," according to Uber's petition. "Moreover, the Cityâ(TM)s rules are inconsistent with fundamental labor law principles ensuring every worker has a voice in whether to be represented by a labor organization."
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Uber Sues City of Seattle To Block Landmark Driver Union Ordinance

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  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @04:43PM (#53684475)

    You don't usually win fighting city hall...

  • If I were building a giant fleet of autonomous robot cars, guess which markets I would absolutely flood with them as soon as they were ready? Any markets that tried to block my human driver efforts today... after all Uber is already making lots of money from the cities where they are allowed to operate, so the quickest expansion in the future is through the most resistant places today.

    If Uber really wanted to, they could absolutely destroy the entire taxi market of a handful of cities with a targeted deplo

    • after all Uber is already making lots of money from the cities where they are allowed to operate

      No, they aren't. Unless you count "spending way more in costs than you generate in revenue" as "making money".

    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

      If I were building a giant fleet of autonomous robot cars, guess which markets I would absolutely flood with them as soon as they were ready? Any markets that tried to block my human driver efforts today...

      There's a gaping hole in your logic: governments that can block your human driver efforts could (would) also block your autonomous vehicles.

      • There's a gaping hole in your logic: governments that can block your human driver efforts could (would) also block your autonomous vehicles.

        I consider that a good counter-argument, but I have thought about it and don't think that will be much of a problem... I think there would be a lot more pushback around most cities blocking self driving car technology than there is to simply extend union rules to ride sharing cars.

        After all, self-driving cars should reduce cars on the road and also reduce accident rates

        • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

          A law to the extent that "no autonomous vehicle shall be used to transport passengers or cargo for hire within the limits of the city. Violators shall forfeit the vehicle and pay a $250,000 fine" still supports the autonomous car, and would make the unions happy. Most big cities are deeply blue, and deep blue areas are the places where unions still have any kind of foothold and still exercise power.

          Again, I think you're just being unrealistic in your assessment of how easy it will be to displace things li

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If automated taxis are inevitable, then a city has nothing to lose in requiring collective bargaining today. Seattle would probably gain money from the jobs and housing prices for the tech companies that would build driverless cars.

    • Whats to stop them from not allowing the self drivers? This only works IF you can operate there. If they have issues with the human driven cars, does it make sense to expect them to just allow driverless, or even autopiloted ones?

      • The thing is that in not allowing self driving cars, now you aren't just affecting Uber but regular people as well. That's why it's a whole different level of political action than trying to muscle Uber into allowing union takeover of the drivers.

        does it make sense to expect them to just allow driverless, or even autopiloted ones?

        If they really want to be thrown out of office, up to them. Any trying to back technology that cans obviously benefit the elderly or other less mobile people is going to face a ho

        • They could specify things to make it apply to them only. Any of the taxi laws they don't want to follow are a good start.

    • Uber can't operate their human-less fleet without first being licensed and registered by the State. You think fucking with giant metropolitan cities in those States wouldn't have serious consequences? You'd be removing a huge job sector, especially in places like New York City or Seattle, which would end up removing tax revenues. Uber could be completely destroyed if those states enacted laws that prevented human-less autonomous vehicles on their roads, along with enacting rules encouraging Uber driver unio

    • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

      The problem is that an Uber ride is fundamentally no different to any other taxi ride in terms of cost. The reason why an Uber journey is cheaper than a regular taxi journey is that the Uber journey is effectively subsidised by Uber investors and the driver/owner of the car who doesn't know his/her true costs.

      Uber's business model is fundamentally flawed. They have no competitive advantage over normal taxis except the ability to bilk investors in California out of their money.

      Let's say Uber perfects the dri

  • Hey, welcome to the taxi business.

    • Taxis still have designated taxi pickup points all over the city (and especially airports) at which they are just handed business.

      The Uber driver has no such location, having to park somewhere close to where potential business may be, often taking minutes to get somewhere a taxi would just be hanging out at.

      In terms of employees taxi companies are highly exploitive of workers, vastly more so than Uber. Uber drivers can choose where and when they want to work with complete freedom. How is that not giving an

      • In terms of employees taxi companies are highly exploitive of workers, vastly more so than Uber. Uber drivers can choose where and when they want to work with complete freedom. How is that not giving an inherent advantage to taxi companies that can order drivers to service unpopular locations?

        Taxi drivers can actually earn a living wage.

        • Taxi drivers can actually earn a living wage.

          So do all of the Uber drivers I have talked to. If they want to work mostly full time, they can easily make a living wage by taking advantage of surge pricing earnings (which is after all the reason surge pricing exists).

          To help them out I usually tip them (even though you are not supposed to). Even with tip an Uber is less than the base fare of a "real" taxi and usually far nicer to ride around in. On a recent trip I took an uber one way, and a taxi back the

          • by 0ld_d0g ( 923931 )

            Well there is an inherent guarantee about being on a payroll vs being possibly equally compensated if you happen to be the bloke that spoke with SuperKendall.

            So, if you're not one of the drivers that hangs out with SuperKendall, you might be making close to minimum wage.

            http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

            • Well there is an inherent guarantee about being on a payroll

              AHAH HAHAHAH AHAHA AHAH AHA HAHA HA H A HA HAH A HA HA H!!

              *gasp* When are you from gramps?

              I haven't been on a payroll in ten years now and am wholly better for it.

              So, if you're not one of the drivers that hangs out with SuperKendall...

              Then you are one of the many other drivers making a decent living with great job flexibility. I have personally come to value job flexibility vastly more than money.

          • Taxi drivers can actually earn a living wage.

            So do all of the Uber drivers I have talked to.

            I took a series of Ubers recently and I asked each of them straight out how it was working out for them in terms of making a living. All of the drivers said they were doing pretty well money-wise.

            Two of them mentioned that they make a *ton* of cash from the Uber Eats service on the weekends. All of them said they liked what they were doing, liked the flexibility, and were making a good living at it. I have no reason to disbelieve them.

  • Due by it. Every single one of your drivers has Internet access. Seems trivial to organize them. Unless you can use your size to bully them, I suppose....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @04:52PM (#53684549)

    There will be one Uber union worker to put the car in gear while another union worker supervises. The union worker who steers the car will be entitled to 20 minute breaks every 45 minutes. The union worker who presses the brake and gas pedals will only be allowed to work on certain 'certified' models of cars. And all 4 of them will retire on full benefits after 10 years.

    • The truckers union is not that bad.

      But for an uber union driver it can be paid hourly with an time clock that where drivers who are waiting and ready for an ride are on the clock, returning to the main pickup zone from an long fair on the clock, waiting in the airport line on the clock, with all miles paid at least the IRS rate + all tolls covered or driving cars owned by uber at no cost to the driver.

      If uber wants an lot of drivers ready for fairs then they should be paid and not only paid if they get an f

      • Uber drivers can already deduct all milage driving while they are listed as active even when not carrying a fare.

        If uber wants an lot of drivers ready for fairs then they should be paid

        Why if the drivers are willing to just wait for a fare? One Uber diver I talked to in Long Beach was a writer, and simply worked on writing while he was between fares. There are a lot of people like that, who may as well be killing time sitting in car as at home. If there were a shortage of such people then yes, Uber would

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @09:13PM (#53686597)

      Fuck this made up anti union crap already. For every (likely made up) story you have about how your father's uncle's brother's first cousin's roommate had a union job and it was full of lazy people there are about 100 well documented stories of management and owners acting like the slime most of them are. Yet we allow capital to organize (corporations) complete with special legal protections and far too many here would be just fine if we deny labor the same thing. Somehow your heads don't explode from the sheer cognitive dissonance of it--but reflecting on that one actually has to think to have cognitive dissonance.

      • For every (likely made up) story you have about how your father's uncle's brother's first cousin's roommate had a union job and it was full of lazy people

        I had a student job with a community college while I went there only about a decade ago, while I uh, pivoted. And what I saw in the IT department was tragic. The primary system upon which the school depended was a HP-SUX quad Alpha, because that's what their software runs on. Then they replaced it with some ridiculously expensive many-way itanic box because that's what the vendor told them to do. On the old system, I got paid to implement ssh tunneling (with putty, naturally) to stop them from sending SSNs

        • Why yes, your unsubstantiated anecdote is compelling evidence for your thesis! Unlike in every other argument ever.

          • It's too bad you don't have the balls to just come out and call me a liar, son. Then you'd really have something.

      • by brunes69 ( 86786 )

        You know who doesn't have unions? Machines.

        If you are an Uber driver and your primary concern is unionization, you can't see the forest for the trees. You should be worried that you're going to be automated out of a job within 3-5 years.

  • We took on the WTO and we won.

    Bears of little brain.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      We took on the WTO and we won.

      Yeah! Down with globalization! Make America great again!

      Er .... Um .... Wait a minute.

  • Its a subsidiary that provides some amorphous driver/rider insurance plan from a subcontractor called James River insurance company that they go out of the way to confirm has "an A- rating" from A. M. Best. that rating is their credit rating, not an indicator of their overall business performance or likeability. It showed up in 2014, and only appears available or relevant in the city of San Francisco where there ostensibly exists a regulation of some sort to mandate the existence of insurance for "ride sh
  • Standing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @05:24PM (#53684829)
    How can Uber have standing in a court case about regulations for employees, when the swear blind that the drivers they are employing are not employees?
    • How can Uber have standing in a court case about regulations for employees, when the swear blind that the drivers they are employing are not employees?

      That seems quite consistent. If you have a bunch of contractors collude together to demand price increases that is just that, collusion.

      I mean fuck Uber for their labour abuse, but if they every actually get their "they are just contractors" point properly through the courts then I imagine they have grounds to take their own contractors to court for anti-competitive behaviour if they attempt to unionise.

      • There are laws around "just contractors", and Uber seems to ride fairly close to the edge. The problem with getting their point properly through the courts is the law, not any problem with the court system. The fact that they often clearly defy the law means that courts are less likely to cut them any slack.

        Also, I don't think there's any problem with contractors forming a union and bargaining collectively. There's plenty of unions and professional organizations that represent people who aren't typica

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2017 @06:24PM (#53685261) Journal

    They set wage levels and even collude to drive down wages[*]. When they set pay levels for a company they are collective bargaining, for management and the stock holders, as much as a union does. Why shouldn't human beings be allowed to do so as well? Or are they not people too?

    [*] see the Apple, Google, HP wage collusion case.

    • in fact that's the entire point of an organization.. it's an 'organization', power floats to the top. And, yes, some unions are greedy and need to understand the prevailing market. But why can not workers also organize themselves.
  • I live in Belgium and everybody (or at least every adult) can join a union if they want to. You have a selection of unions where you can go to, regardless where or if you work. There are some that are more specialized. e.g. for train staff, for white color, for management (yes, they can join a union as well), military and there will be several that will be specialized.

    I just am with one that is close to where I live, because that is what was important to me.

    So I just join the union and that is about it. Non

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