So-called ‘Sweetheart Deals’ were made legal under the Obama Administration’s NLRB. Now, the SEIU may be taking full advantage of it with Uber and Lyft.
In late May, the California Assembly passed AB5, which is a bill designed to make it harder for companies to label workers as independent contractors instead of employees.
Although it has yet to pass the California Senate, it has a lot of companies who use independent contractors worried—perhaps none more so than ride-share companies Uber and Lyft.
In the face of such a potentially-business altering law, Uber and Lyft are not sitting idle.
According to the New York Times over the weekend, “a few large unions had been meeting with the giants of the ride-hailing industry, Uber and Lyft, to discuss a way to exempt drivers from full employment protections, according to union and industry officials.”
In essence, Uber and Lyft have been trying to hook up a sort of “sweetheart deal” by giving its drivers to a union—which would then collect union dues—in exchange for being exempted from AB5.
So-called “sweetheart deals” became legitimized in 2010, when the National Labor Relations Board, under then-President Obama, was controlled by union lawyers.
Since then, the decision that legitimized the practice of “pre-recognitional bargaining” (aka cutting a sweetheart deal) has not been overturned.
Of course, the main union at the center of the Uber/Lyft talks is the Service Employees International union—better known as the SEIU.
Although the SEIU has a long track record of cutting sweetheart deals to the detriment of workers, there is now apparently discord among different factions as to whether or not the union will proceed to help Uber and Lyft, in exchange for members.
Several SEIU leaders have come out against backroom dealing, stating they support AB5 and making independent contractors employees.
“The change in the S.E.I.U.’s apparent openness to exploring less than full employment status,” reports the Times, “comes amid considerable opposition to the idea both inside and outside the union.”
In addition to other unions, the most vocal opponents are the ride-share drivers themselves.
I’m mad. Selling out the future of labor for easy access to workers! We would live w/ a driver exemption on employee rights or a 3rd worker category w/ less rights for generations! But we don't need to! We can win this! This is a cynical, selfish, & non-strategic move. /4
— Nicole Moore (@nicoemoe) June 30, 2019
We won't work with any union that's in talks with #Uber and #Lyft to accept money from them and limit our full rights as employees. We represent the direct voice of the drivers who want & deserve better. Collective bargaining and a seat at the table.@GavinNewsom should know this. https://t.co/Fiy3zbZpUr
— Rideshare Drivers United – LA (@_drivers_united) June 30, 2019
Whether or not Uber and Lyft are successful in getting a carveout into AB5 before it is signed into law is likely dependent on whether they can cut a deal with the SEIU or another union.
However, now that the light has been shined on the deal cutting, that may not be an option for too much longer.
Ironically, AB5 was introduced into the state assembly Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), a former union honcho.