by Luke Schaefer
A multimillion dollar settlement has been reached between rideshare titan Uber and the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) over alleged violations of Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) for Gig Workers Ordinance. The settlement will put $3.4 million into the hands of over 15,000 Seattle Uber drivers and marks the largest settlement agreement in OLS’s history.
On Thursday, June 24, City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and Council President Lorena Gonzales joined the Teamsters Local 117 union and several Uber drivers for a press event outside the Islamic School of Seattle to celebrate the win for drivers.
“Today $3.4 million [is] going back in the hands of workers. $3.4 million from an investigation initiated by these workers here. $3.4 million going on the tables of hardworking families across Seattle. That’s an economic stimulator. That’s good for everyone,” said Mosqueda, whose labor-focused reelection campaign is being endorsed by Teamsters 117. “We can be proud of Seattle. Today, workers are getting the pay and respect that they deserve.”
An investigation by OLS found that after the PSST ordinance passed last summer, many drivers were unable to access their accounts to claim sick days and some drivers’ sick day totals were represented incorrectly within the app. Uber claims the presence of software glitches in their payment system are responsible for the errors and the company has since worked with OLS to correct these issues.
Papa Diawara, an Uber driver since 2014, took the stage early on to express his appreciation for the settlement. When he couldn’t get paid for sick days he had earned last summer, Diawara had to take on extra hours while his wife underwent emergency surgery.
“I took three days off to help my wife and I claimed sick pay from Uber, but for these three days I did not get paid … It was tough for me.”
Payment for drivers will vary depending on how much each driver worked — however, drivers are entitled to one day of paid sick leave for every 30 days worked, and over 15,084 drivers will receive advance payment for an unused sick day. Another 2,329 drivers will receive additional pay from the settlement, including pay from back wages, interest, liquidated damages, and civil penalties.
Joshua Welter, a union representative who spoke for Teamsters Local 117 at the event, said that an Uber driver he saw will receive $6,000 from the settlement.
Gonzales closed out the press conference by congratulating the OLS for their investigation and by thanking rideshare and delivery drivers for their service during the pandemic.
“They don’t have a title, but they deserve compensation for the time that they spend shuttling our families around. Whether you were a mom who needed to get to daycare, whether you were a relative who needed to see a sick loved one in the hospital. These folks were here to take you there to make sure that your journey was safe. And they deserve the same amount of respect back,” said Gonzales before plugging her 2021 mayoral run.
“It is overdue for this city to have someone in the mayor’s office who is going to put workers first. That’s what I commit to do. I have been doing it for 10 years, and I will continue to do it once elected to be mayor of the city.”
Uber drivers eligible for the settlement payout can expect to be paid within the next 30 days.
Luke Schaefer is a freelance journalist and screenwriter based in Seattle. He graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2021. He loves his bike, the films of John Waters, and the Reubens at Lost Lake Cafe. You can find his other writings at hotluke.com.
📸 Featured Image: Council President Lorena Gonzalez and members of the Teamsters Local 117 announce a record-breaking settlement that will award $3.4 million to Seattle Uber drivers. Photo courtesy of Teamsters Local Union No. 117.
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