Imagine one day you are going about your business, enjoying working as your own boss, clocking in whenever you want, and taking home a decent paycheck for doing enjoyable work. Then, you suddenly learn that you are being unionized by the Teamsters against your will and that you’ll be required to give up part of your paycheck every month in the form of mandatory union dues.
It sounds unbelievable, but that is exactly what is happening to rideshare drivers like me in the city of Seattle. In 2015, the city council passed an ordinance allowing independent contractor drivers to be unionized. The local Teamsters announced in March that they would be working to unionize Uber and Lyft drivers under their banner. If the union can get a majority of drivers to sign union authorization cards, all drivers will be forced to pay the Teamsters, even those who object.
Thankfully for me and all the other drivers who wish to keep their money and represent our own interests without a union, Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have taken up our cause.
We all learned in middle school that under our Constitution we have First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. We’re not choosing to be represented by a union, and yet, the city is attempting to force us to not only associate with one, but to hand over part of our paychecks for this unwanted privilege. That is just plain wrong.
To make matters even worse, under the Seattle ordinance Teamsters can use a system called “card-check” to unionize drivers. Under card-check, rideshare companies must hand over our personal contact information to the Teamsters. Union organizers then approach drivers one-on-one, often at home, and pressure, coerce, intimidate, harass, or trick them into signing union authorization cards. If the Teamsters can collect cards from a majority of drivers, then all of us are unionized whether we like it or not. A secret ballot election never takes place.
The Seattle City Council has long had a cozy relationship with unions. It is hard not to believe the over $150,000 in campaign contributions from unions to council members in the election immediately prior to this ordinance passing did not influence their decision to boost the Teamsters’ membership rolls and bottom line at drivers’ expense. Adding insult to injury, a significant portion of our forced union dues will be converted by the union into still more campaign contributions to finance politicians who will continue to do their bidding even if we oppose those politicians.
Last month, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the Seattle ordinance meaning that, for now, the union will not immediately receive our personal information. We are hopeful the ordinance will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional. If it is not, then it will be more than just Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle who will be deprived of their independence. Indeed, sooner or later under this precedent the unions will target all independent contractors, and one day you may wake up to find that you are suddenly a dues-paying union member – whether you like it or not.