A Local Union Wants to Help California Uber and Lyft Drivers Organize

Uber drivers protest against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica
George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3VKJ9
Photograph by Lucy Nicholson — Reuters

As both Uber and Lyft attempt to settle respective high-profile lawsuits over their classification of drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, a local union is already working to organize their drivers.

On Friday, Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents more than 100,000 members, said that it plans to form an association for drivers of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

“By coming together, the Teamsters will help these drivers have a stronger voice and improve standards for rideshare drivers in California,” said Teamsters International Vice President and President of Teamsters Joint Council 7 Rome Aloise in a statement.

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Teamsters Joint Council 7 represents people in industries across Central and Northern California, as well as Northern Nevada. The commuter bus drivers who ferry employees of companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, and Google, are among the workers it represents.

The efforts are still in the early stages, according to Aloise. The organization started meeting with drivers a while back, though its efforts will ramp up after last week’s proposed settlement for two high-profile cases over Uber’s classification of drivers as contractors. However, it’s still unclear how these organizations will work, especially given the variety of needs and work hours among drivers, Aloise told the San Francisco Examiner.

One problematic aspect for the Teamsters is that Uber and Lyft drivers are still classified as independent contractors. As a result, these workers would not be able to form a traditional union. Instead they would have to form an association, which would have limited bargaining abilities and be allowed to speak on the behalf of drivers.

By comparison, in December Seattle’s city council voted to pass a bill that lets drivers of ride-hailing companies—as well as taxi and other for-hire drivers—collectively bargain. Since then, the local Teamsters organization set up the App-Based Drivers Association and has been helping the newly group use its numbers to bargain more effectively.

But because Washington and California have different regulations when it comes to labor, their app-based driver organizations will operate differently to match their respective members’ needs. Aloise expects eventually all driver associations will work together.

As part of a court settlement Uber proposed last week, the company has said it will let drivers form local associations.

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“We will work together to create a driver’s association in both states,” Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post about the settlement in California and Massachusetts. “Uber will help fund these two associations and meet them quarterly to discuss the issues that matter most to drivers.”

While Teamsters Joint Council 7 is aware of this, Aloise says it’s still undetermined how his organization’s driver groups will interact with those formed by Uber.

Fortune has reached out to Uber and Lyft and will update this story if it hears back.

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