Uber called its recent union deal ‘historic.’ A new complaint alleges it was actually against the law.
In late May, Uber filed for an order in the New York Court of Appeals granting the company permission to unionize. The company was granted a waiver so it could unionize even though it was facing an injunction in California over its anti-union conduct.
In one of the most contentious aspects of the lawsuit, Uber argued that it could not be compelled to give up its constitutional right to self-governance in exchange for the right to unionize. Now, an attorney for the company is back in court, filing an amended complaint that takes a different tack. The new complaint asks the court to compel the state of New York to rule in favor of Uber.
“Uber’s union-busting plan was not legal. Uber’s plan for a union was illegal. Under New York law, the state could have compelled Uber to bargain as a union,” wrote attorney Christopher Onda in the new filing.
The suit, filed by the New York Public Interest Research Group—which filed the original complaint and is also an intervener in the case—aimed to force the state’s highest court to rule on the legality of state laws prohibiting unions.
The complaint also asks the court to hold that the state’s refusal to rule on the merits is a “violation of the New York State Constitution and is of great public importance”—at least to the Uber unionization case.
While the company is asking the court to rule in its favor, the case now pivots on the question of what the state could or should have done to enforce its laws. In the original filing, the attorney for Uber wrote that state laws prohibiting unions were “under attack” and “could be used to coerce employees into giving up their fundamental right to freely choose how to organize.”
“There are laws on the books, which state that employees cannot be compelled in the exercise of their right to organize,” he wrote. “Further, there is a well-entrenched practice – which I have seen – whereby the employer threatens employees with discharge if they unionize: ‘[i]f you participate with the union, you will be fired.’”
The new complaint reads more like a request to require the state to enforce laws that are supposedly