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US Chamber of Commerce is suing Seattle for letting Uber and Lyft drivers unionize

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Ride-hailing apps get a lobbying ally

The US Chamber of Commerce is suing the city of Seattle over a law that allows Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize. The Chamber, a pro-business and anti-labor American lobbying group, is wading into the growing debate over the rights and classification of ride-hailing workers, and it's using federal antitrust laws to try and protect the apps from local regulations. The group fears Seattle's ordinance may inspire other "disparate regulatory regimes" that may "inhibit the free flow of commerce among private service providers around the Nation," according to the lawsuit.

Seattle became the first city in the country last year to pass a law granting Uber and Lyft drivers the right to collectively bargain. That means drivers can negotiate how much money they can make from fares and tips, and gives them more power when dealing with the services' five-star ratings systems. Uber and Lyft opposed the measure, as it could be costly to their businesses if drivers were able to set fare limits and prevent the companies from using their ratings systems to ban drivers. Uber has even gone so far as to use its customer service reps to call up drivers in Seattle and read off anti-union scripts to convince them not to use the ordinance, according to a report last month from Quartz.

The Chamber fears unionization could "inhibit the free flow of commerce"

Seattle officials said the city would be willing to fight. "We have millions of dollars set aside," Seattle Councilman Mike O'Brien told Reuters in December. In its lawsuit, The Chamber is hoping to establish a preventative measure that would keep Seattle from ruling on the employment status of drivers until the National Labor Relations Board makes a decision on four cases involving Uber drivers around the country. Those lawsuits center on whether ride-hailing drivers are employees or contractors and could have a significant impact on the business models of Uber and Lyft in the US.