May 17, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota lawmakers battle with Uber, Lyft over driver pay, protections

Illustration of a traffic light with a green light revealing a steering wheel

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A hotly contested bill to give wage and job protections to Lyft and Uber drivers in Minnesota is heading for a House vote Wednesday, amid a last-minute push to pass the proposal before the Legislature adjourns Monday.

Driving the debate: Supporters say drivers, who work as independent contractors, deserve higher pay and an avenue to appeal being "deactivated" from the apps.

  • They've cited concerns about the cost of gas, opaque wage structures and workers being blocked from using the platform without explanation.
  • Ride-hailing companies have countered that the changes could raise prices for customers and make it more difficult to fire drivers accused of serious misconduct.

What's new: Bill sponsors rolled out a major write-through of the bill on Tuesday ahead of the May 22 deadline. Changes include lowering the minimum rate per mile in the metro from $1.85 to $1.45 and dropping insurance requirements that the companies had called unworkable.

  • DFL state Rep. Mohamud Noor of Minneapolis told Axios that the amendment addresses the ride-hailing apps' concerns while ensuring "fairness and equity for the drivers."

The other side: The changes haven't slowed Uber's opposition. A public affairs spokesperson told Axios that the company "worked directly with drivers to negotiate a deal" that would raise rates "without doubling the cost for riders" but that those agreements were not reflected in the updated bill.

  • The company said the current language would result in local drivers making more per mile than those working in New York City or Seattle.

In a statement, Lyft argued that rate increases would make the service out of reach for lower-income communities, resulting in fewer rides and lower overall earnings for drivers.

  • "Instead of forcing a bill that would destroy the service for many of the communities who depend on it, we should continue to work together on a solution that benefits all," the company said.

What we're watching: Gov. Tim Walz declined to commit to signing the bill on Tuesday — contradicting one sponsor's recent claim that he was on board.

  • "We really need to get something done around this, but I'm not quite sure it's ready to go," he said.

The intrigue: The Minnesota Reformer reported last week that DFL Sen. Omar Fateh and other supporters could derail other budget bills if the recently revived legislation doesn't pass this session.

  • Fateh denied making that demand in a brief interview with Axios, but said he did make it clear to leadership that the bill is a top priority for him.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Lyft.


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