Amazon drivers are left out of Seattle driver's rights bill

Steven Loeb · December 15, 2015 · Short URL:

While Lyft and Uber drivers can unionize, Amazon drivers cannot, because they don't carry people

Monday was a big day for Uber and Lyft drivers, as the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to allow them to unionize. Yay, right? Well, kind of. I mean, good for those drivers, but, of course, there's a catch. There always has to be a catch.

Yes, those companies fall under the legislation, and neither of them are happy about it. But there's another company, also based out of Seattle, that managed to slip out from underneath. You may have heard of it. It's called Amazon, and it's the largest retailer on the planet.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Tuesday, Amazon is exempt from the legislation, based purely on what is being driven. Since Lyft and Uber drivers pick up people, therefore they are able to unionize. Since Amazon drivers pick up objects and packages, they cannot. Make sense? Yeah, not really. 

In the legislation, the Council made it clear that a big part of the reason that they felt that drivers should be able to unionize would be to protect their passengers.

"Leveling the bargaining power between for-hire drivers and the entities that control many aspects of their working conditions will enable more stable working conditions and better ensure that drivers can perform their services in a safe, reliable, stable, cost-effective, and economically viable manner, and thereby promote the welfare of the people who rely on safe and reliable for hire transportation to meet their transportation needs," it says. 

Obviously people in taxis and cabs where a driver is able to get enough rest, and not have to stay out too long trying to make more money, will be safer. A unionized driver will be able to protect him or herself from having to do that. So this is a good thing. But why is that not also a concern for drivers with packaged goods? A tired truck driver, I would argue, is an even bigger danger to more people on the road. Remember what happened to Tracy Morgan? That was the result of a tired driver who had been out too long. He wasn't carry people, but he sure did have a negative effect on a lot of lives. 

What this ultimately comes down to is worker rights, who has them and who doesn't.

Both Uber and Lyft are currently in a fight with their drivers. The companies want to classify their drivers as independent contractors, while the drivers want to be full time employees, which would come with benefits and more pay. 

It's becoming an important issue when it comes to the future of work in this country, and Amazon is not immune to this fight. It too is battling it out with its drivers, who sued the company in October, alleging that Amazon denied them overtime pay, workers' compensation and mileage reimbursements. They also said they classified as independent contractors instead of employees, which is what they should have been.

Specifically the suit has to do with drivers for Amazon;s Flex service, which uses  drivers that have their own cars and pay for their own insurance and other fees. The Flex drivers want be considered employees, not contractors. 

Under the new legislation, Uber and Lyft will be required to give the city a list of drivers, which a nonprofit or union will then use to contact and sign up drivers, ultimately with the goal of functioning as the majority’s bargaining representative. The union would use its power to help drivers collectively bargain over their wages and working conditions.

Obviously being able to organize and form a union would have been a boon for Amazon drivers as well, and the fact that they aren't covered is a big win for Amazon.

VatorNews has reached out to the Seattle City Council, as well as to Amazon, for comment. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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