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Opening the Door to Unionization of Uber and Lyft Drivers in New York

Employers, Employees and Independent Contractors – meet Network Workers.  In a new bill proposed in New York, the legislators, with the support of a number of labor unions, have proposed a new classification of workers – the Network Worker.  The Network Worker would neither be considered an employee nor an independent contractor.  The bill is designed to help gig workers that perform delivery and livery services (think Uber, Lyft and Door Dash) have a path to unionization without the need to be classified first as employees.  Sound confusing- it is and advocates on both sides of the pro-labor movement are at odds with it.   

Under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”), employees have the right to unionize while workers classified as independent contractors do not. The new proposed legislation would treat certain gig workers as a separate class of worker, non-employees with the right to unionize. 

Proponents of the bill argue that it is a good first step for gig workers on their path to becoming recognized as employees, while opponents to the bill have many issues/concerns, including:

  • The bill, if passed, would be preempted by the NLRA;
  • The bill does not go far enough to protect gig workers and stops short of granting employee rights to these workers; and
  • These workers are truly independent contractors and should not be afforded the right to unionize.

Confused?  Wait.  What may seem counter intuitive to readers is the fact Uber and Lyft are two big proponents of the bill.  However, when you think about it, Uber and Lyft’s support of the measure makes perfect sense.  With the passage of the bill, Uber and Lyft will be able to appease union organizers by giving gig workers the right to organize, while not having the additional financial burden of these “Network Workers” being classified as employees.

If passed, the legislation could deliver up to 250,000 app-based drivers and food delivery workers to the union.  However, many union officials have denounced the legislation, arguing it does not do enough in that these workers will not be protected under minimum wage and anti-discrimination laws, and they will only have limited ability to go on strike.  Moreover, they argue the legislation detracts and undermines union efforts to get the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (Pro Act) passed.

How the Legislation would Work and How it could Become Law

Once ten (10%) percent of the state’s app-based delivery workers and drivers sign union cards, that union would become the sole bargaining agent for all of the state’s app-based drivers or delivery workers. To finance the union, the legislation would allow for a $0.10 fee per ride/delivery to finance the union.

The legislation faces an uphill battle to get signed into law, but it represents a good example of the general movement towards unionization sweeping across the country.  It is quite possible we have not heard the last of the Network Worker in New York and across the nation. 

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on all issues involving unions, staying union-free, complying with the newest decision issued by the NLRB, and training management on how to deal with all these challenges.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.