Q&A with Teamsters 117 on ride-sharing legislation

Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing for two bills aimed at regulating the ride-sharing industry. One bill, SB 6043, is supported by ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The other bill, SB 6500, is heavily supported by the Teamsters 117. While reporting on these bills, The Wire posed a few questions to the Teamsters. Dawn Gearhart, Association Policy Coordinator for Teamsters 117, responded to our questions with the following reply via email.

 Q. How would you characterize the division of the two bills?

SB 6500 is a coalition bill aimed at preserving local control over an industry that is, by nature, local.  SB 6043 is an industry bill that has been shopped around the entire country in order to give companies maximum control and minimum regulation.

Q. What are your primary objections to SB 6043?

SB 6043 does not go far enough to ensure safety for drivers and riders.  SB 6043 takes preemption too far, and limits a meaningful voice for the workers who will ultimately be impacted by the bill. By shifting control from municipalities, where the vast majority of trips actually happen, to the State, legislators without a vested interest can take votes that harm workers without having to worry about accountability.

There is a concerted effort to stop progressive legislation (minimum wage increases, paid sick and safe leave, collective bargaining for drivers) by passing statewide bills with local preemption.  This was Uber and Lyft’s verbatim strategy in Texas after the City of Austin passed legislation the companies disagreed with.

Q. SB 6043 was introduced early (Dec 21) while SB 6500 was introduced late in the game (Jan 19), why was it introduced so late?

SB 6500 was introduced as soon as it was ready. It is more technically complex and included extensive legal review by city attorneys. SB 6500 is also a coalition bill including stakeholders from The City of Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane airport, WA Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and Teamsters Local 117.  Drafting the bill, engaging stakeholders, allowing for comment and legal review all contributed to a longer process.

In contrast, SB 6043 is a redraft of previous preemption bills — most recently SB 5620.  Companies have drafted preemption bills and passed them in 41 other states, and SB 6043 is just the Washington State version.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.