August 16, 2023
From Fight Back News

Minneapolis, MN – On August 8, a proposed ordinance that would guarantee Uber and Lyft drivers a minimum wage and give them some protections against “deactivation” (firing) came one step closer to becoming law in Minneapolis.

Dozens of Uber and Lyft drivers came and testified to the city council’s Business Inspection Housing and Zoning Committee about their exploitation and mistreatment by Uber and Lyft, demanding that the city council pass the ordinance to stop Uber and Lyft’s extreme exploitation of them. At the end of the public testimony, the committee voted 5-0 to advance the ordinance to the full city council for a final vote on August 17.

Gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers are legally classified as “independent contractors” rather than workers, meaning labor laws such as a minimum wage don’t apply to them, and they drive their own car and pay all their own expenses like gas and maintenance.

In Minneapolis large numbers of Uber and Lyft drivers are East African immigrants. They have organized into the MN Uber and Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA). MULDA has pushed hard for basic rights and protections for drivers both at the state and city level.

During the state legislative session earlier this year, drivers succeeded in getting both the Minnesota House and Senate to pass a bill very similar to the one Minneapolis is now considering. But then Uber and Lyft executives, who rake in millions of dollars while paying their drivers subminimum wages, threatened Governor Tim Walz that if he signed the bill into law, they would leave the state. Governor Walz caved to their threats and vetoed the bill. That’s what brought the drivers back to fighting for a minimum wage and basic rights in Minnesota’s largest city, Minneapolis. City council members and city staff have been developing this proposed law since the spring, when Governor Walz vetoed the state-level bill.

In the days leading up to the August 17 city council vote, Uber and Lyft are giving a repeat performance of their blackmail against the state legislature and Governor Walz in the spring. Both corporations sent letters to Minneapolis city council members and the mayor threatening to leave Minneapolis if the city council passes basic worker protections for their drivers, who have no minimum wage or labor protections while Uber’s CEO made $24.3 million last year, and Lyft’s CEO could make over $900 million this year, depending on how high the company’s stock goes.

Minneapolis City Councilmember Aisha Chughtai said in a tweet, “Uber’s CEO made $24.3 million last year, but rideshare workers aren’t even guaranteed a minimum wage. If a business model depends on such severe exploitation, the model needs to change. I’m proud to stand with MULDA in their fight for basic workplace protections and holding companies like Uber and Lyft accountable.”

After the policy passed in committee on August 8, Mayor Jacob Frey released a statement that echoed the statements made by Uber and Lyft executives, setting up a possible showdown on workers’ rights, like what happened at the state legislature if the council passes the ordinance and the mayor vetoes it.

The city council will vote on the issue at its meeting on August 17 at 9:30 a.m. in City Hall Room 317.