A night in the life of a Capitol Hill driver: James Jackson has been driving Uber and Lyft for about 8 months, he tells CHS. “The best time for any driver is weekends, Friday-Sunday, or at night. Anytime after 6 is a good time to drive. Myself, I get off at 3, I go pick up my kids and drop them with my wife, and I start driving after 6. After 6 the roads are more clear, it’s easier to pick up riders without the hassle of traffic jams. I usually go to 11pm, 12 five days a week.”
“I work for Seattle Public Schools as a teacher during the day, teaching special education.”
“I like people to ride in the front seat. I like to be more sociable, personable. It seems like we’re more than just taxi driver and passengers, it’s like I’m just giving a friend a lift.”
Do you have any concerns for your safety? “No. I’ve never felt that way. I did 5 years in the Army. I can refuse you a ride, or I can take you out of the car. There are concerns for safety, but I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Seattle could become the first U.S. city to allow drivers for rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to collectively bargain with the app-based companies. The City Council is scheduled to take its final vote Monday afternoon on a controversial measure to allow independently contracted drivers to unionize in order to negotiate wages and working conditions with “transportation network companies.”
The vote will be closely watched nationwide and beyond as rideshare services have rapidly expanded, taking on hundreds of thousands of drivers worldwide.
UPDATE 3:45 PM: The City Council voted 8-0 Monday to allow Seattle’s for-hire drivers to unionize. The bill’s passage makes Seattle the first city in the nation to attempt to give drivers the right to collectively bargain with app-based ridesharing companies. Council members still have the difficult task of shaping the mechanism by which unions can represent drivers in Seattle, not to mention responding to all-but-certain legal challenges from TNCs and other for-hire driver companies.
Council member Mike O’Brien was the bill’s primary sponsor.
Council member Kshama Sawant said the bill was necessary as increasing numbers of workers are employed on a freelance basis. “Ever since sharecropping, the sharing economy has meant sharing in one direction. That is, workers have the privilege of sharing what they produce with their bosses,” she said.
After many committee meetings on the issue and an unusually in-depth analysis from the City’s law and finance departments, the council spent relatively little time discussing the bill. Drivers and representatives from the taxi company Eastside for Hire spoke against the measure during public comment, saying they were not given adequate time to learn about the bill. “There are ways to help drivers that are immediate and within your authority,” said Eastside’s Samatar Guled.
Following the vote, Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement that he would not sign the bill, but would not veto it either, paving the way for it to become law. “I remain concerned that this ordinance, as passed by the Council, includes several flaws, especially related to the relatively unknown costs of administering the collective bargaining process and the burden of significant rulemaking the Council has placed on City staff,” he said.