Uber called its recent union deal ‘historic.’ A new complaint alleges it was actually against the law.
Uber’s ongoing labor battle with the San Francisco-based Local 111 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has dragged on for years, with no end in sight. In recent months, the two sides have negotiated a four-year collective bargaining agreement that, according to the union, guarantees “fair labor,” but Uber has continued to make its employees’ jobs harder, according to two new class-action lawsuits against the company which, if successful, would put Uber in hot water with the Department of Labor, which could take the company to court and potentially seek to get back wages.
At the center of the new class-action lawsuit against the company, which was filed on April 22, is the fact that Uber—a multibillion-dollar company with more than $18 billion in profits in 2015—is required by federal law to bargain in good faith with its employees through two separate mandatory bargaining units, while also employing thousands of part-time workers to work on Uber’s platform and self-driving cars.
The law that demands Uber bargain in good faith with employees through two mandatory bargaining units is the Wagner Act, which was enacted in 1935, after a long history of legal battles and lobbying from organized labor. The law states that if a company meets certain thresholds, the company must bargain in good faith with employees in one mandatory bargaining unit, or any other bargaining units that the company selects, “to the extent the parties determine to be necessary.” The two bargaining units that are at issue are the “general office employees” and the “personal services workers” of UberX.
According to the law’s definition, an individual is covered by the mandatory bargaining units if that person (a) has received compensation and benefits in the last 12 months, (b) is employed or has a right to seek employment by the employer, or (c) has