One limit of the National Labor Relations Act is that it applies only to employees. Independent contractors are not covered by the Act. A Seattle city council member recently introduced legislation that would bring collective bargaining to cab drivers that work as independent contractors who are not covered by the Act. This is another creative way unions have found to increase revenue by skirting traditional labor laws.
The legislation proposes creating a process so that a majority of independently contracted drivers who work for the same company could choose to join a “driver represented organization.” The organization would negotiate pay rates and other conditions of employment for cab drivers and drivers for services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as other for-hire drivers. The city of Seattle would have to review the agreement reached and would also be tasked with enforcing the agreement.
Alternative labor organizations like the ones envisioned by this bill are unlawful under the NLRA, but have been implemented elsewhere. Volkswagen recently agreed to meet with any organization certified to represent at least 15% of the workers at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. [See, “Volkswagen Agrees to Meet With Any Organization Representing 15% of a Group of Workers”] VW would meet with these organizations even though its employees lost a union election. Similarly, graduate students at New York University formed a “union” that lies outside the National Labor Relations Board’s jurisdiction. [See, “NYU Graduate Students Ratify Union Contract”]
Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.