The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suing the city of Seattle for extending collective bargaining rights to drivers for ride-hailing services including Uber and Lyft.

The organization, described by The Verge as "pro-business and anti-labor," claims the city ordinance violates federal law and would restrict flexibility of driver schedules. In addition, allowing drivers to unionize would "burden innovation, increase prices, and reduce quality and services for consumers," according to a press release from the chamber.

"Technology companies are leading the charge when it comes to empowering people with the flexibility and choice that comes with being your own boss, and that is something to be championed, not stifled," said Amanda Eversole, president of the Chamber's Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, in a statement.

Uber and Lyft echoed the reasoning of the Chamber in statements about the lawsuit, according to Reuters. The Chamber seeks to suspend the law, which it says could have a broader impact on the "on demand" economy.

While Seattle's mayor opposes the ordinance, city councilors told Reuters last year that they were prepared to fight a potential lawsuit.

At a city council meeting in December, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant compared sharing economy controversies to longstanding labor issues, saying that rebuilding the union movement could help improve conditions for the growing proportion of U.S. freelance workers.

New York University law professor Samuel Estreicher told the Associated Press at the time of the ordinance's passage: "If the Seattle ordinance survives challenge, we'll see it in a lot of cities."

That is exactly what concerns the Chamber. "If Seattle is permitted to adopt its own set of regulations here, then 40,000 other municipalities [in the U.S.] may attempt to do so as well," the Chamber said in its press release. "Permitting literally thousands of separate and independent regulatory regimes would cripple the for-hire driver industry and, more broadly, the 'on demand' economy writ large."

 

Published on: Mar 4, 2016