The Washington State Senate on Friday passed a bill granting gig drivers certain benefits and protections while preventing them from being classified as employees — a longstanding priority of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.
While the vote appears to pave the way for ultimate passage after a similar measure passed the state House of Representatives last week, the two bills would still have to be reconciled before being sent to the governor for approval. Gov. Jay Inslee has not said whether he intends to sign the legislation.
Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Mr. Inslee, said Friday that the governor’s office usually did not “speculate on bill action,” adding, “Once legislators send it to our office, we’ll evaluate it.”
The Senate legislation — the result of a compromise between the companies and at least one prominent local union, the Teamsters — was approved 40 to 8.
The action follows the collapse of similar efforts in California and New York amid resistance from other unions and worker advocates, who argued that gig drivers should not have to settle for second-class status.
Under the compromise, drivers would receive benefits like paid sick leave and a minimum pay rate while transporting customers. The bill would also create a process for drivers to appeal so-called deactivations, which prevent them from finding work through the companies’ apps.
But the minimum wage wouldn’t cover the time they spend working without a passenger in the car — a considerable portion of most drivers’ days. And like independent contractors, they could not unionize under federal law.
One especially controversial feature of the bill is that it would block local jurisdictions from regulating drivers’ rights. A similar feature helped ignite opposition that killed the prospects for such a bill in New York State last year.
Looming in the background of the legislative action in Washington State was the possibility of a ballot measure that could have enacted similar changes with weaker benefits for drivers. After California passed a law in 2019 that effectively classified gig workers as employees, Uber, Lyft and other gig companies spent roughly $200 million on a ballot measure that rolled back those protections. The legislation is still being litigated after a state judge deemed it unconstitutional.