Ride Sharing Drivers are Suing One City Over Forced Union Representation
Beth Baumann  |  @eb454  | March 16, 2017

The Freedom Foundation, a national right to work organization on the west coast, has focused primarily on making healthcare workers aware of their right to opt out of forced union dues. Now, the organization has a new mission: working with Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle to relieve them of their forced union membership.

The Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have now joined hand-in-hand in filing a federal lawsuit on behalf of Uber and Lyft drivers in Washington State. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 independent contractors in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and alleges the city of Seattle passed an illegal ordinance in 2015 which requires drivers to become members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 117. Under the ordinance, union dues are mandatory, even if a driver is opposed to union representation.

"The Seattle City Council often forgets where its authority ends and where the unions' begins. The Teamsters are an independent, nongovernment entity selling a product - representation. And no one should be forced to buy it if they don't want it," David Dewhirst, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, said in a statement.

Currently, the Teamsters use a "card check" system. Under this system, each union member is given a membership card, which they use to vote on union-related issues. Instead of having a secret ballot, a union representatives goes around and collects the members' cards as their means of voting, meaning union heads know how individual members are voting. 

"Elections can't force people to waive their Constitutional rights. That's the whole point of the Constitution. Every American citizen has the right to exercise their freedoms of speech and association, regardless of the wishes of the union - or for that matter, the city," Dewhirst said.

According to the lawsuit, Seattle is violating the National Labor Relations Act by imposing union representation and forced dues. They also argue being forced into the union is a violation of the drivers' First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association.

Last week, Teamsters Local 117 filed their notice of intent to unionize Uber, Lyft and Eastside Town Car and Limousine Drivers.

The decision to file a lawsuit came at this time, because the companies have until April 2nd to hand over drivers' personal contact information to the union.

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