Uber and Lyft Drivers Awaiting Seattle Decision on Unionization

A city council vote could have major implications for your next ride.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While the popularity of smartphone ride services like Uber and Lyft prove these companies know how to take care of their customers, drivers tell a different story.

A case in point: Don Creery, a driver for Uber and Lyft in Seattle. In an interview with the New York Times, Creery said that after he had invested in a new car for work, Uber and Lyft cut the rates they charged passengers and ended the driver incentives that made Creery decide to become a driver in the first place.

“Early on, these companies were really great,” said Creery. “But when it comes down to it, they keep lowering their rates on us.”

Such complaints are being heard in high places. On Monday, Seattle’s city council is scheduled to vote on whether freelance drivers for services like Uber and Lyft should be granted the right to unionize, the Times reports. In most industries, collective bargaining rights are reserved for full-time employees; though Uber and Lyft emphasize that they provide drivers the opportunity to make money with flexible hours during their free time, many drivers actually drive for Uber or Lyft as their primary source of income.

Hundreds of full-time Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle have joined a group known as the App-Based Drivers Association, or ABDA, which could become the first organization of on-demand workers to become unionized. With the help of Seattle Teamsters Local 117, ABDA hopes to give its drivers the power to negotiate issues such as minimum per-mile charges for passengers.

David Plouffe, the Uber policy executive, has warned that the unionization may violate federal antitrust law. But should the ABDA of Seattle succeed in becoming unionized, Uber and Lyft drivers from other cities may follow suit. That could cause a domino effect not just for app-based ride services, but for the rights of contract workers everywhere.