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Regulation madness: Judge prevents Seattle from forcing Uber/Lyft drivers to join Teamsters union

A judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking Seattle from forcing Uber/Lyft to unionize. (VTC - Tourism vehicle with driver) have been protesting against assurances the French Prime minister has given to taxis. / AFP / Geoffroy Van der Hasselt (Photo credit should read GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images)

A Seattle ordinance that had the effect of forcing Uber, Lyft, and other for-hire and app-based driving companies to join the Teamsters union was blocked by a judge last week after a number of companies filed suit to prevent enforcement of the ordinance.

The law, which was the first of its kind, was passed in 2015 forced Uber and Lyft drivers into collective bargaining negotiations with a union they did not choose. Instead, the city of Seattle was given the right to select a union for the drivers.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the city selected the Teamsters union to represent the drivers — the major union that supported passage of the ordinance.  It should also be noted that the Teamsters already represented the taxi drivers in Seattle — taxi drivers who operate in direct competition with Uber and Lyft. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft both filed lawsuits, along with the Chamber of Commerce, arguing that the National Labor Relations Act does not allow independent contractors the right to unionize.  The suit also argued that the local ordinance would create a monopoly in violation of federal antitrust law.

Another portion of the law required ride-sharing and transportation companies to hand over their drivers' contact information to the Teamsters, and the companies also sued on the basis that the ordinance violated drivers' right to privacy. The law took effect in January and companies had until April to provide the information to Teamsters.

District Judge Robert Lasnik issued the temporary restraining order, siding with Uber and Lyft and noting that handing over lists of drivers' personal information involved confidential and trade secret information.

"Plaintiffs have raised serious questions that deserve careful, rigorous judicial attention, not a fast-tracked rush to judgment based on a date that has no extrinsic importance," Lasnik wrote in his decision. "The public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration as to whether the City’s well-meaning Ordinance can survive the scrutiny our laws require."

The Seattle ordinance is just the latest effort on the part of taxi drivers and the powerful unions that represent them to use the coercive power of state and local governments in an attempt to drive up costs for Uber and Lyft so that Taxis will face less price competition from ride-sharing companies. As always seems to happen in stories like this, the liberal local government doesn't care if the consumer is forced to pay higher prices in order to advance their special interests' agendas.

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