Last month, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution aimed at regulating the base rates paid to drivers for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. The resolution, which could be followed by new legislation later this year, is just the latest move in the council’s ongoing efforts to regulate the rideshare industry on behalf of union leaders.
Predictably, the city of Portland wants to follow suit.
That instigator is Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, who in an April 29 editorial in The Oregonianlaid out his plan to ask the Portland City Council and Mayor Ted Wheeler to follow in Seattle’s footsteps.
Chamberlain’s union dues-funded federation even created (and paid for) a shiny new front group to be the face of the effort. They’re calling it “Transportation Fairness Portland.”
Specifically, the AFL-CIO wants the Portland to create a “wage board” through which union leaders can negotiate over rules to regulate driver pay and working conditions. If the approach sounds familiar, that’s because it’s an industry-wide example of how unions currently operate at the individual workplace level. With union membership already low in the private-sector and Janus v. AFSCME threatening to make to huge dent in public employee union membership rolls, labor leaders are trying anything they can think of to stay relevant.
In Seattle, for example, the city council even tried to pass an ordinance subjecting Uber and Lyft drivers to unionization before turning its most recent price-regulating approach. The city’s initial efforts were stalled after several rideshare drivers filed a lawsuit with the Freedom Foundation’s help.
Needless to say, any similar effort by the Portland City Council to force rideshare drivers into a union would be met with similar opposition – not only from the drivers themselves, but by the Freedom Foundation, which would be prepared to represent them.
But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here – at least not yet. For the time being, Chamberlain’s plan is calculated simply to make him rich by regulating Uber and Lyft out of business at the behest of the existing taxi driver unions rather than by collecting dues from rideshare drivers themselves.
Either way, the rideshare drivers lose.
The whole allure of being a rideshare driver is working for yourself and making your own rules. Becoming an Uber or Lyft driver is a great way for people to earn extra money while working flexible hours. And its appeal is its informality – the absence of stifling regulations and paperwork make the experience better for both drivers and passengers.
It would be a shame if the Portland City Council followed Chamberlain’s advice and decided to impose death by 1,000 regulations on an arrangement that works splendidly for both entrepreneur and consumer just because a huge special interest decided to cut itself in for a piece of the action.