Court Puts The Brakes On Contract Drivers

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A prominent trade union Wednesday praised a decision to classify 200 taxi contract drivers in Tucson, Ariz. as employees.

The decision was made Oct. 23 by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) applauded the decision as fair to the drivers. Unions have fought the expanding use of contract workers in recent years. They argue its unfair to those that get classified as contractors as opposed to employees. Contracting also makes it much more difficult for unions to organize workers. The decision impacts area workers at AAA Transportation/Yellow Cab.

“This group of drivers did as much as they could on their own,” OPEIU International President Michael Goodwin said in a statement. “Within three months of turning to OPEIU, we’re pleased to see a favorable decision from the NLRB and are now preparing for an election.”

The expanded use of contracting has much to do with emerging business models. Opponents have said it’s too unregulated and unfair to workers. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are among those who have condemned those business models that rely on it. Officials at the Department of Labor have spoken out against it as well.

One of the more prominent of the business models is known as the sharing economy. It is the result of new technologies which allow companies to make digital platforms where individuals create their own business ventures. Supporters say it gives workers the chance to become their own entrepreneur. It also allows for worker flexibility.

Sharing economy pioneers like Lyft, Uber, FedEx and Airbnb have faced a lot of legal trouble. Oregon labor officials decided Oct. 15 to start classifying Uber drivers as employees instead of contractors. A California court ruled in June that Uber misrepresented one of its employees as a contractor to avoid paying her employee expenses and benefits.

The Tucson case looked at how much control the independent drivers actually had over their operations. In its determination, the NLRB decided the drivers did not have enough control for them to be reasonably considered independent contractors.

Unions are some of the more adamant rivals of business models that rely on contracting. Contracting as a whole makes it more difficult for unions to organize workers because unions have to pursue one contractor at a time as opposed to all employees within a single workplace.

Though contractors can join a union, it’s much easier to unionize employees because consent doesn’t have to be unanimous. A union only has to get the majority of employees within a single bargaining unit to agree to representation in order to become the exclusive representative of all the employees.

If the union becomes the exclusive representative of all of the employees in a mandatory dues state, all the employees within that bargaining unit must pay union dues or fees, whether they agree with the union or not.

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