Opinion

Don’t Impose Forced Unionism On Seattle Rideshare Drivers

Mark Mix President, National Right to Work
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11 million.

That’s the number of American workers that are forced to join or pay fees to a union just to get or keep a job.

And yet the Seattle City Council apparently thinks 11 million Americans is not enough, as councilmembers are poised to vote on a first-in-the-nation ordinance to subject independent contractors – specifically thousands of drivers who work with ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft – to forced unionism.

Faced with an American workforce of traditional employees who are largely uninterested in bringing a union into their relationship with their employer, Big Labor has spent considerable effort in recent years using union political influence to target new categories of Americans for forced unionism, including mandatory dues and fees to replenish union treasury funds. Previous targets have included home-based childcare business owners and even mothers who to take care of significantly disabled children.

These power grabs have faced legal challenges in court, including the landmark Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court case, won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, that struck down schemes nationwide designed to force childcare and home healthcare providers into union forced dues ranks.

Faced with setbacks in one scheme, union officials now see independent drivers, who decide if and when to pick up rides through these app-based platforms, as prime new targets for expanding their forced-dues ranks.

If this proposed forced-unionism ordinance passes, drivers who use apps like Uber and Lyft to find passengers would find themselves subject to union boss monopoly bargaining, including potentially a union contract imposed by an unelected city bureaucrat without any say from the drivers who will be forced to live with the consequences. Union bosses could use the contract to dictate drivers’ hours or any other condition of employment, depriving drivers of the very independence and flexibility they currently enjoy.

But drivers will lose something else, too, when money is diverted from their payments into Big Labor coffers. Like traditional employees in states without Right to Work laws that make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary, drivers who oppose union representation will face a choice: pay money to a union they don’t support or lose their ability to work with companies like Uber and Lyft to support their families.

The proposed ordinance also puts drivers’ privacy at risk. Under the scheme, independent drivers’ personal information, including their home and email addresses and phone numbers, will be turned over to any union official seeking to start an organizing campaign.

Union bosses will gain access to the personal information of every single one of the thousands of Seattle-based drivers who have driven with these app-based ride services, regardless of whether or not a driver wants anything to do with a union, opening the door to potential harassment, identity theft or other abuse of this information.

This ordinance is a bad deal for Seattle drivers and for Seattle taxpayers, who will ultimately bear the cost of defending the ordinance against the inevitable legal challenges it will generate.

Drivers opposed to unionization will have multiple grounds for a legal challenge, not the least of which is that under the ordinance their First Amendment rights are violated by being forced to subsidize Big Labor speech they disagree with. (And the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation stands ready to provide drivers seeking to challenge this forced unionism scheme with free legal assistance).

It’s clear that backers of this ordinance are more concerned about doing Big Labor’s bidding than doing what is best for Seattle taxpayers, independent drivers or riders who use such platforms to get around town.

Polls consistently show Americans overwhelmingly oppose workers being forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of working. Expanding those union boss forced-dues powers over independent drivers would be a drastic step in the wrong direction.

Mark Mix is the President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.