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Ride-share drivers protest unionization outside Councilmember's house

A dozen Uber and Lyft drivers protested against unionization in front of a Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien house Monday morning, April 3, 2017. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - About a dozen Uber and Lyft drivers protested in front of a Seattle City Councilmember’s house Monday morning.

Armed with bullhorns and neon signs, the group voiced opposition to a law allowing drivers for ride-share companies to unionize.

In late 2015, Seattle became the first city in the nation to pass such a law. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took the City to court to block the law before an important deadline on Monday.

“Today is the deadline day Uber is to turn over our private information, driver’s license number, address, phone number turn it over to the Teamsters and we don’t want our information put out there like that,” Charles Jenkins, an Uber and Lyft driver who organized Monday’s protest, told KOMO Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik is weighing the case and has not yet issued a ruling.

The Chamber of Commerce argues that the law is trumped by federal antitrust and labor laws, according to the Associated Press. Lawyers for the City of Seattle say that the law is not pre-empted by federal law and that drivers can bargain over their working conditions.

“Ultimately this is going to cost me and the rest of the drivers the position we’re in and it’s probably going to cost the riders themselves,” Uber driver Kenneth Likout said at the protest Monday.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien was not at home when the protesters were there. He declined a request for an interview Monday.

Jenkins calls O’Brien was a force behind the law allowing the independent contractors to form collective bargaining units so they can negotiate with the ride-share companies.

“We have that flexibility to work when we want to work,” Jenkins said. “If you’re a single mom and you gotta go pick up your kids at school, you go get your kids then you can go drive. If there’s an emergency you can stop, turn the app off and go drive.”

But at the busy Seattle-Tacoma International Airport ride-share stand Monday, several drivers said they weren’t opposed to the idea of joining a union.

“A union is going to protect us. We are losing some of our rights because of our not having a union,” said Bayissa Titha, who drives for Uber. “It’s not about our money, it’s about our rights. Say we don’t have medical insurance, we don’t have our voices heard from Uber or Lyft, so to me it’s really very important.”

Sergio Alvares, a Lyft driver, said he once belonged to a carpenters’ union and wouldn’t mind rejoining another.

“For me we need to be represented, but on the other hand I need to know what’s involved. What’s the cost? What’s it going to take? Things we have to do and things of that nature,” Alavres said.

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