Can Seattle Launch a Movement for a New Kind of Workers' Union?

This city is a national leader in trying to make Uber and Lyft negotiate working conditions with their drivers. Which raises a question: In the new "on-demand" economy, what form would a unionized workforce take?

Comments

2
This is a sorely-needed step. It's worth noting, however, that this "citizen unionism" is basically industrial unionism made anti-septic and palatable to capitalist liberals. Maybe the IWW - at least in the day when it really was a fighting union - had the right idea.
3
Excellent article, I find Stone's concept of citizen unionism compelling. Thanks for the info, this subject is definitely one to watch.
4
@1: Cool! Cause I got a big-ass pipe wrench handy - first time I see a Google "POD".....

5
@2,

The IWW absolutely does have the right idea.
6
@4
And what are you going to do with that "big-ass" tool?
7
""To us, the driver is not just a piece of machinery, and the passenger is not just a fare," he said. "We do have a mission, and everyone in the company believes that, and it does involve community and environment. It involves doing something impactful in the community that we love."

There is, alas, no word in the English language that properly characterizes this sort of language. I mean, its obviously bullshit but its a quite specific sort of bullshit. I can't say its insincere as such because corporate dude probably really means it when he's saying it. But change the context and the same guy will talk about duty to shareholders with the same sincerity.

And we all know which set of lofty principles will have to yield when push comes to shove.
8
If unions want to survive, they have toget a new mindset. One-size-fits-all workrules are fine for shift work on a factory floor, or rank-and-file skilled labor like electrical workers, but they do nothing for office workers (outside of stuff like call centers). Also, the matter of the disclipinary process has to be addressed, as the unions by nature protect under-performing and poor-performing employees (see SPOG). That sort of thing should be left to HR.

Unions should focus on working conditions, benefits, wages, and employee development. Leave the management of the work to the management. Thats how they can grow themselves.
9
The city council destroyed the industry when they allowed Uber and Lyft to operate illegally and then amply rewarded them for it by legalizing them, because, lobbying:

https://www.muckrock.com/foi/seattle-69/…

Then council rewarded them again by lowering the regulatory threshold. Now the city council is going to solve the problem they created. They are going to now "help' the people they victimized. And we are supposed to say: our city is so "progressive".
10
@8 Teh Heritage foundation called. They want their talking points back.
11
Oh please. I'm third generation Union, not some Norma Rae wannabe. I support organized labor, but it has some major flaws, particularly as we lose the manufacturing base that made it so strong. Sorry if that offends your delicate sensibilities, but there needs to be something for the members to make the union worthwhile to the intellectual worker class, and that's increasingly not there.
12
The biggest problems with unions all stem from the AFL-CIO's organizing around crafts and shops, instead of following the IWW's one big union concept. One of the driving forces behind de-unionization was the problems caused by union work rules that are more focused on making sure their union gets a bigger slice of the pie than some other union, while completely ignoring the plight of workers at the same company that don't have a union for their craft or position. The IBEW won't let a union carpenter do any electrical work, but don't care at all about the IT department, most of whom would love to be unionized.
13
City Light IT (and maybe the entire city IT, I'm not sure) is under the IBEW.
14
Theater may provide a good model. IATSE allows members to work many different employers for short stints.
15
Back in the day, physical capital defined work: Land and factories.

Unions could force employers to transact because employers weren't "going" anywhere.

Today, the economy isn't place-bound. Technology, finance, mobility, and information become liberalized and distributed. We can move anywhere, create anywhere, sell anywhere, invest anywhere. So go ahead and form a workers union. If you're not competitive, we'll see ya bye-bye!

(Unless you're going to seize our money and our passports, as dictators are inclined to do....)

Atlas is shrugging!
16
Are Uber drivers required to work a minimum amount of hours to retain their connection to the company? My understanding was that this was a totally at-will, work-when-you-want gig that was not designed to be someone's primary source of income. How many Uber drivers use it as their primary source of income? Would someone who just drives Saturday nights for a little extra money on the side be forced to pay union dues, like I was when I was a 16-year-old bagging groceries at QFC, making 6.50 an hour and working 18 hours a week?
17
Am the only person that thought "$5,000 for detailing, a business license, registration, and insurance." is fishy? That number is WAY too high.
18
Excellent discussion. Teachers in non-profit or private sector face same issues, part-time gigs with few or no benefits or rights. To even belong to a union, the employer must agree to take you on, can then challenge the organizing drive at every turn and even if the drive succeeds, can find excuses not to bargain. But look at successful lobbying groups, like the NRA or AARP -- all you have to do is send a small check and you're in, and with thousands or millions of members, their clout is massive (and a juicy target for advertisers, who fund their work,) We could use an American Association of (still) Working Persons, representing everyone regardless of industry, status or profession.