Uber called its recent union deal ‘historic.’ A new complaint alleges it was actually against the law.
On January 1, Uber was officially a unionized company. Not as a matter of fact, but for the reason that it had to be.
The Department of Justice, a federal law enforcement agency, has been investigating the company for “anti-competitive” business practices, one of which allegedly involved offering to drivers the ability to work for UberX in exchange for signing a rider agreement.
A complaint by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers alleged that the union had a good case and that Uber was guilty of “unfair, unjust, anti-competitive, and abusive business practices.”
That same day, Uber filed an anti-union lawsuit to defend the company’s actions, citing that the union had failed to offer Uber drivers a “proper and fair contractual process.”
While union organizing is supposed to be a protected right in the United States, the Department of Justice is currently the lead agency in protecting it.
As the Washington Post pointed out:
Uber has been pushing back against a unionizing the ride-hailing company as “anti-competitive,” and it has won some victories in court. But it’s not just legal hurdles Uber needs to overcome when trying to unionize. U.S. labor law has safeguards for such efforts.
The law says that the use of a collective bargaining process only happens “where the employees and the employer are free from dispute with respect to the essential terms and conditions of employment.” This “Essential Terms and Conditions” phrase can be found in a number of different laws, but it’s the one that was used in the Uber case.
As The Washington Post explained, the Department of Justice can bring cases where a union violates that clause, and then the agency can bring a lawsuit to make the company drop the case:
Under a policy established in 2015, the Justice Department has brought hundreds of such cases since 2012, where an employer is alleged to have violated the essential terms and conditions clause when it bargained with a union. The Justice Department also typically provides the union unionized.
The Department of Justice said in a memo outlining a strategy that “we have the authority to bring and prosecute allegations of unfair labor practices when a union has engaged in conduct that impedes, or threatens