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Suit Against Drivers' Union Hits 9th Circuit Roadblock

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Seattle was ahead of its time when it gave for-hire drivers the chance to unionize in 2016.

Unfortunately for Uber drivers and others, their lawsuit challenging the city ordinance was also premature. In Clark v. City of Seattle, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said their claims are not ripe.

The for-hire drivers said the ordinance violated the National Labor Relations Act and their First Amendment rights. Not now they don't, according to the appeals court.

Not Ripe

The ordinance sounded like a good idea to some: give drivers the power to negotiate for pay and working conditions through a union.

But some sued in 2017 over a provision that would disclose their personal information to a union and other claims. A trial judge dismissed, saying the claims were merely hypothetical.

The appeals court agreed, adding that the claimed injuries were "neither concrete nor a particularized injury." Even if the drivers have to give information to a union, there's no real harm done.

"In order to operate in the city of Seattle, all for-hire drivers must obtain business licenses and disclose much of the same information in a public and searchable municipal database," Judge Milan Smith wrote in a unanimous decision.

Uber Not

Last year, Uber praised the Ninth Circuit for suspending the ordinance while it considered the appeal. The company said "a tremendous amount" is at stake in the case.

"We remain confident the Court will find the City overreached in its effort to protect taxi companies and help the Teamsters," the company said on its website.

That statement, like the lawsuit, appears to have been premature.

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