Panel puts brakes on efforts to unionize Disney Lyft drivers

ORLANDO, Fla. — A labor relations board is putting the brakes on a decision allowing the Teamsters to represent scores of drivers who haul passengers around the Walt Disney World property in Florida after being summoned by a Lyft app.

A National Labor Relations Board panel last Friday reversed a regional director's decision allowing the Orlando-based Teamsters local to represent the drivers.

The "Minnie Van" drivers have different responsibilities and training than do bus drivers who are already represented by the Teamsters local, according to the three-member panel's ruling.

The Teamsters demanded the right to bargain for wages, hours and working conditions on behalf of the van drivers without a vote on the matter after an NLRB regional director last May ruled the union could represent them.

Disney World guests can get the private rides using the Lyft app on their phones instead of waiting for Disney buses to drive them around the resort.

An attorney for Teamsters Local Union 385 on Monday said he was considering the local union's options. They include asking the NLRB to reconsider or filing an appeal in the federal courts.

"Local 385 believes that the regional director's decision was correct and is disappointed by the board's reversal," attorney Tom Pilacek said in an email.

Disney officials didn't respond to a request for comment.

The Teamsters had argued that the "Minnie Van" drivers, who are Disney employees, should be included in the same bargaining unit as bus drivers since they perform the same job of driving guests around the resort.

But the NLRB panel said their responsibilities are quite different.

Bus drivers need a commercial driver's license, they drive a fixed route, they play pre-recorded information over a loudspeaker and their training lasts for 14 weeks, the panel said.

The drivers summoned by the Lyft app, on the other hand, get only two weeks of training and don't need a commercial driver's license. They drive wherever their passengers ask them to go. They are instructed to tell stories to their passengers, advise them about things to do at Walt Disney World and help resolve any problems the Disney guests may encounter, the panel said.

The drivers summoned by the Lyft app and bus drivers "may have similar working conditions and share geographic proximity," the panel wrote. But they "have little or no group identity."

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