Driven to Organize: Seattle-Area Uber Drivers Form Association
With regulations for app-based ride services looming in Seattle and with concerns rising over the companies’ business practices, a group of drivers decided it was time for an organization of their own. Last weekend, the App-Based Drivers Association was born.
Ride-share companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, which let users request door-to-door service with just a few taps of their smartphones, have been campaigning for support throughout the country and fending off pressure from taxi groups.
Now, after a rash of driver firings in Seattle and as potential city regulations make the future of the industry uncertain, drivers have come together to create an association to represent their interests in negotiations with the companies and the local government.
At a meeting over the weekend, about 200 local drivers elected a seven-member leadership team and adopted a set of bylaws establishing the App-Based Drivers Association. The group will be supported by Teamsters Local Union 117.
“Today is an historic day for all app-based drivers,” organizing member Daniel Ajema said in a statement. “We set a framework for the future and for the workers who follow us. From now on, our dignity will be protected in the workplace.”
The new group expects to play a role in the development of regulations that would govern the rideshare industry in Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray set a deadline of June 2 for rideshare groups to reach an agreement on rules that would set a cap of 150 active cars for each company and address safety and insurance issues. King County Executive Dow Constantine last week offered an alternative proposal that would omit the controversial vehicle cap.
Local drivers are also concerned about the companies’ firing practices. Currently, Uber can suspend or terminate a driver’s contract if the driver gets a bad rating from a user, according to two drivers interviewed by television station Q13 FOX. Though they support the rating system, they said they’d like to see some changes.
The review system “keeps quality going,” said Ajema. “But the company never told a driver why they got a bad rating, or who gave [it]. And they should give them an appeal process to challenge that before they`re let go.”
Brooke Steger, Uber’s Seattle manager, told the Seattle Times that drivers can be permanently suspended if their annual background check reveals any criminal activity or driving offenses. Drivers are given constructive feedback based on customer reviews, she added, and if customer service issues aren’t resolved, drivers can receive a three- to seven-day suspension or be fired.
Some drivers expressed concern that they might be penalized for joining the App-Based Drivers Association, but Steger said there would be no action taken against anyone who joins.
“Everyone is free to do that,” she said. “It’s their right and we’re not going to stop that from happening.”
Members of the App-Based Drivers Association, at the group's formation. (Teamsters photo)