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Minneapolis City Council passes ordinance setting minimum wage for rideshare drivers

Minneapolis City Council passes ordinance approving more protections for Lyft, Uber drivers
Minneapolis City Council passes ordinance approving more protections for Lyft, Uber drivers 02:04

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minneapolis City Council voted Thursday to pass an ordinance creating a minimum wage for rideshare drivers. 

This comes just days after Uber and Lyft threatened to pull their services from the city if the measure passed. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has expressed reservations about the ordinance, but has not said whether he will veto it.

"As the mayor laid out in his letter to the City Council yesterday, he supports drivers being paid more," his office said in a statement Thursday. "However, he has deep concerns with how the ordinance is written and the impact it will have. He needs time to review the ordinance and the amendments made to it."

The measure passed by a vote of 7-5.

Many rideshare drivers have shared their stories about the importance of a minimum wage with WCCO and in front of council members as this proposal has made its way through committees and to the full city council. Passengers WCCO talked to feel the same way.

Minneapolis City Council could vote on minimum wage for rideshare drivers Thursday 01:58

"I've driven in the past when I've had some health issues and that was a way that I was able to make money and take care of my family, so I understand how important that is. Just in general I think employers and partners should be offering those simple benefits," Stephanie Williams said.    

The proposal sets a minimum wage for rideshare drivers that is equivalent to the city of Minneapolis' minimum wage at $15.19. Under the proposal, drivers would pocket at least $1.40 per mile and $0.51 per minute, or $5, whichever is greater.  

The rule only applies for the portion of the ride within the city limits. The ordinance also sets new rules on how companies can discipline, terminate or deactivate drivers. It also guarantees riders and drivers get receipts detailing how much the rider was charged and what the driver was paid.

Drivers would also get greater employment protections, including a 5-day notice before account deactivation, and rights for drivers to challenge a deactivation. That grace period does not go to drivers with dangerous offenses that threaten public safety.

"It maintains the provision that gives all drivers the right to a due process with representation in a timely manner," said Robin Wonsley, Ward 2 of the Minneapolis City Council. Wonsley was also a strong supporter of this ordinance.

"We are at risk, we're going through that, we're frustrated," said Marianna Brown, a 6-year Uber driver.

Brown shared her experience and income driving for a single day with Uber.

"We make less than $300. We fill up our tank twice, that's $100, and the wear and tear [to our personal vehicles] and our time...for 12 hours, we make less than $200. How is that fair? We are living below poverty level," said Brown.

Some passengers say it's the right thing to do.

"Everybody is entitled to a working wage and living. I'm for it," Jeff Young said. 

"I think that that's very important," Jenn Teske said. "As an independent contractor myself for a long, long time before I went into my own business, I think that people should have that and I think Uber and Lyft should provide that."

The measure has received some pushback from the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council as well as Frey. He has said while he agrees drivers should be paid more, the process to get there is complex and requires more time and information. If he does use his veto, the city council would need nine votes to overturn his veto.

In an email to city council members Wednesday night, Frey urged them to "allow more time for deliberation" and outlined measures he feels need to be addressed, including:

  • Extending the effective date to align with state recommendations
  • Clarifying rules about deactivated drivers
  • Adding more driver protections and benefits
  • Providing effective ways for the ordinance to be enforced
  • Considering the downsides of identity verification and gift card bans

Even though the council passed the bill 7 -5, the fight isn't over yet for these rideshare drivers.

The power to pass or veto this ordinance is in the hands of Mayor Frey who says he supports more money for drivers but wanted to delay the vote to get more research and data.

Mayor Frey has until Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m. to decide if he will pass or veto this ordinance.

Gov. Tim Walz vetoed a similar measure passed by state lawmakers earlier this year after Uber and Lyft threatened to pull their services. Walz has set up a committee for further study into a minimum wage for rideshare drivers.

Minneapolis wouldn't be the first city to set a minimum wage for rideshare drivers. Washington state and New York also have one in place, both for their largest cities of Seattle and New York City as well as for the entire state.

Spokespersons for Uber and Lyft released the following statements late Thursday afternoon to WCCO:

Uber: "We are disappointed by the results of today's vote and the overall process in Minneapolis. We are determining next steps."

Lyft: "This bill has been jammed through the Council in less than a month with little consideration for its consequences. If it becomes law, drivers would ultimately earn less because prices could double and only the most wealthy could still afford a ride. We support a minimum earning standard for drivers, but it should be part of a broader statewide solution that also protects driver independence. That's why we urge Mayor Frey to veto this bill and instead allow time for the state's rideshare task force to complete its research. Overwise, operating within Minneapolis would no longer be sustainable, and we would need to shut down within the city when the law takes effect on Jan. 1."

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