Union files to represent Uber drivers serving LaGuardia

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People line up at a taxi stand at LaGuardia Airport. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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A union has formally requested to represent 600 Uber drivers who make pickups at LaGuardia Airport.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1430, on Tuesday filed a petition affirming that over 30 percent of that group desires to be represented by the union, and requesting the National Labor Relations Board hold an election.

Jordan El-Hag, the Armonk union’s business manager and attorney, said that drivers serving LaGuardia make an appropriate unit because “they’re somewhat structured under hubs at Uber.”

“There are regulars that go to work at that location,” he said. “That’s based on the initial information we gathered.”

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He said the board would probably have to hold hearings to determine whether the LaGuardia unit was appropriate, and that he expects Uber to challenge the filing.

The petition, obtained by POLITICO New York, specifies “[a]ll full time and regular part time taxicab drivers employed by Uber working from the LaGuardia Airport,” though Uber drivers are technically independent contractors, rather than statutory employees.

“In order to be represented by a union, they’d have to be employees,” El-Hag said, pointing to a 2015 ruling in California, where there are class-action lawsuits against Uber, which last year that found that one driver was an employee.

The filing is the first attempt to unionize Uber drivers in New York, the car-hail service's largest market. (In December, the Seattle City Council passed a law allowing drivers for car-hail apps to unionize.) 

“Oh, Jesus,” Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which protested Uber’s fare cut earlier last week, said when told of the filing. “We’ve got over 5,000 Uber members already. … I would say that in terms of who would represent organized Uber drivers, [that] is a long way down the road.”

“We’re already organized. I don’t what I would say in response,” she said.

Uber spokesman Jason Post said in a statement, "Drivers do well when companies compete to give them the best possible deal. At Uber we've worked hard to create a great service for partners, where they can earn money on their own terms. Drivers control where and when they work, and they are free to use other apps at the same time as they're on Uber. It's why tens of thousands of New Yorkers have partnered with us over the last four years. Of course there's always more we can do--and it's great to hear from drivers about what they'd like to see next."

Read the petition here: http://politi.co/1PSpMN1