| SAN FRANCISCO, March 3
SAN FRANCISCO, March 3 The U.S. Chamber of
Commerce planned to sue the city of Seattle on Thursday to
challenge an ordinance allowing drivers of ride hailing apps
Uber and Lyft to unionize, saying it violates federal
Seattle last year became the first U.S. city to pass a law
giving drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft, as well as
taxi and for-hire drivers, the right to collectively negotiate
on pay and working conditions.
City officials took action amid growing concerns about how
drivers are compensated. Both Uber and Lyft vigorously opposed
the measure, arguing that existing federal labor law trumps
The Chamber, a federation of more than 3 million businesses,
would be the newest entry into the growing legal battle being
waged by numerous factions in courts across the United States
over whether the drivers are independent contractors or
employees, and what sort of benefits they should have.
"Seattle and thousands of other municipalities would be free
to adopt their own disparate regulatory regimes, which would ...
inhibit the free flow of commerce among private service
providers around the Nation," a copy of the lawsuit provided by
the business group said.
The Chamber was asking a judge in U.S. District Court in
Seattle to suspend the city's law.
The ordinance, approved unanimously by the city council but
opposed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, was an unprecedented
challenge by a city to the companies' business model, which
relies on independent contract drivers to keep costs down.
Seattle officials said in December they were prepared for a
lawsuit. Councilman Mike O'Brien, who proposed the measure, told
Reuters he made sure the city had sufficient financial resources
to wage a protracted legal battle.
"We have millions of dollars set aside," he said.
Richard Reibstein, a labor lawyer who runs the independent
contractor practice at Pepper Hamilton, said Seattle's law is a
threat not only to Uber and Lyft but to all the businesses the
"If a municipality could pass an ordinance of this nature
addressed to the ridesharing industry, it could pass an
ordinance of this nature against any industry and all
industries," he said.
The Chamber also argues that Seattle cannot make a
determination about the employment status of Uber drivers before
the National Labor Relations Board makes a decision. The board
is reviewing at least four cases from Uber drivers, and is
expected to make a blanket decision concerning their employment
(Reporting by Heather Somerville and Dan Levine in San
Francisco; editing by Grant McCool)