Cases & Deals

U.S. Chamber of Commerce wins reversal in Ninth Circuit, eliminating Seattle’s defense of state-action immunity to federal antitrust law

Clients U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Jones Day represents the U.S Chamber of Commerce in a federal lawsuit against the City of Seattle. The city enacted an ordinance authorizing for-hire drivers who are independent contractors to unionize, and compelling ride-referral companies like Uber and Lyft to collectively bargain with those unions over fees and other contractual terms. The lawsuit contends that the ordinance, the first of its kind in the United States, authorizes price fixing by drivers and therefore conflicts with and violates federal antitrust law.

The district court initially granted a preliminary injunction, but later it dismissed the suit based on the city’s defense of state-action antitrust immunity under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943). The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit enjoined the ordinance pending appeal and then reversed on the merits. It held that the city satisfied neither element required for state-action immunity. First, the State of Washington had not "clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed a state policy authorizing private parties to fix the fees for-hire drivers pay to companies like Uber or Lyft." Second, the ordinance delegates price-fixing authority to private parties without "active supervision" by the State. The reversal eliminated the city's core justification for its collective-bargaining ordinance.

Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America v. Seattle, No. 2:16-cv-00322 (W.D. Wash.); No. 2:17-cv-00370 (W.D. Wash.); Nos. 16-cv-00322, 17-35371, and -35640 (9th Cir.)

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