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Uber drivers in Seattle blocked from unionizing after federal judge’s temporary ruling

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A brief reprieve for Uber and Lyft

A federal judge temporarily blocked the city of Seattle from implementing a landmark law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize, according to the Associated Press. The ruling is a temporary reprieve for Uber, which just a few weeks ago saw its own effort to stymie the law struck down by a Washington state judge.

The law in question passed the Seattle city council in a 9-0 vote back in December 2015. The first of its kind, the law allows drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to unionize and collectively bargain for better working conditions, earnings, and other benefits. The bill was a victory for labor groups like the App-Based Drivers Association, which had lobbied with the local Teamsters union on behalf of freelance drivers.

But while Uber’s lawsuit against the city of Seattle was tossed in late March, two lawsuits brought by anti-union groups in federal court sought a similar result: a temporary injunction against the implementation of the law.

One suit was filed by the US Chamber of Commerce, which argued that the measure violates federal labor laws regulating independent contractors. Another was filed by anti-union group, Freedom Foundation.

A spokesperson for the Seattle city attorney’s office initially declined comment until lawyers have had the chance to consult on the judge’s ruling. A spokesperson for Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Developing...

Update, April 4th, 4:36pm ET: “The court recognized the complexity of the issues and the imminent risk to drivers, transportation companies, and the people of Seattle if the ordinance were allowed to proceed without careful legal review,” a spokesperson for Uber said. “We look forward to the court’s full consideration of the many serious legal questions about this ordinance as the lawsuit moves forward.”

And a spokesperson for Lyft said, “We are pleased the Court has ruled that Seattle’s experimental law should not be implemented until the serious issues raised by drivers are heard. The ordinance is a poorly drafted law that could undermine the flexibility of drivers to choose when, where and for how long they drive - the very things that make Lyft so attractive to drivers and useful for passengers."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the city of Seattle cautioned against reading too deeply into the decision to temporarily block the law’s implementation.

“So today is not the final ruling in the case,” the spokesperson said. “The city has a motion to dismiss pending, and will move forward with efforts to defeat this legal challenge to its effort to improve the safety and reliability of for-hire transportation in the city. The city is also encouraged that the court did not find merit in the challenges to the ordinance under federal labor law.”