Abdullahi Abdi, a member of the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association, sits in the vehicle he uses to ferry passengers across the Twin Cities metro area. Abdullahi attended an information meeting on August 2, 2023, about a proposed rideshare ordinance in Minneapolis. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

A trio of Minneapolis City Council members are trying to revive efforts to support rideshare drivers weeks after Mayor Jacob Frey vetoed an ordinance guaranteeing drivers increased wages.

Council Members Robin Wonsley, Jason Chavez, and Jamal Osman announced that they intend to introduce two ordinances to the  council that would secure better rights, protections, and wages for Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

The move, which was discussed at Thursday’s City Council meeting, comes after the council voted 7-5 in August to approve a similar rideshare ordinance, which was vetoed days later by Frey. The City Council later voted whether to overturn the mayor’s veto, but failed to reach the nine votes required to reverse it.

Frey has said he is committed to improving pay and conditions for rideshare drivers, but through a deal he brokered separately with Uber.

The council effort this time around will be broken up into two proposed ordinances—one focused on establishing a minimum compensation for rideshare drivers and the other focusing on protections and rights.

“Drivers and riders still urgently need these protections, and council has the responsibility to pass legislation,” Wonsley said at the meeting. “We have heard broad support from council and the mayor for these goals, and have charted out a new legislative pathway based on this public support.”

Wonsley said she and her supporters are banking on statements Frey made after his veto, in which he said he supported increased wages for drivers.

After Frey announced his veto in August, he also said he secured a commitment from Uber to pay drivers “at least the Minneapolis minimum wage” for fares that actively transport a passenger within Minneapolis city limits.

Frey also said that Uber committed to ensuring that no driver will make less than $5 for any trip in the Minneapolis metro area, no matter how short the trip. Frey did not mention a commitment from Lyft at that time; it’s unclear if anything has changed. A Lyft spokesperson was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Frey’s Communications Director, Katie Lauer, told Sahan Journal Wednesday that the mayor continues to support increased wages for drivers.

“In his veto letter, the mayor proposed working with Council Members and other stakeholders to start a process for creating a new ordinance. He remains committed to working with Council Members to draft an ordinance he can ultimately sign,” Lauer said.

Wonsley said all council members and the mayor have been invited to meet individually with her, Chavez, or Osman to provide feedback for the potential ordinances.

Under the potential ordinances, drivers will earn the equivalent of $15 per hour as a minimum wage. Other possible protections include pay transparency and a process for appealing rideshare companies’ decisions to deactivate drivers, which stops them from working.

“So far, we haven’t heard any disagreement with the math from the mayor’s office. And, you know, there’s broad support around this goal,” Wonsley said. “So we’re hoping that this piece of legislation could be passed without delay as soon as October 19.”

Council members and the mayor’s office have not said whether meetings have been scheduled to discuss the matter.

The potential ordinances’ language will be very similar to the vetoed ordinance, but will also rely heavily on feedback and amendments from other council members in an effort to gain their support, according to Wonsley’s office.

The possible similarities between the ordinance Frey vetoed and the potential ordinances was a major talking point for some council members Thursday, including Linea Palmisano.

“What is it that makes this different enough to continue to bring forward this term, because their previous effort failed?” Palmisano said.

The failed ordinance vetoed in August would’ have guaranteed drivers a minimum compensation of $0.51 per minute and $1.40 per mile while they were transporting a customer within city boundaries. That would have also increased annually proportional to the city’s minimum wage. 

The ordinance would have also paid drivers $0.51 per minute and $1.81 per mile for transporting a passenger in a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

It would also have provided drivers more safety features, such as prohibiting passengers from using a gift card for rides. Drivers alleged that some riders used gift cards in order to engage in criminal activity against drivers, and were harder to trace afterwards.

Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl reminded the council that it can decide if the substance of the potential ordinances is different from the failed measure, and that it’s up to the authors of the new effort to convince their fellow council members.

“The substance of the proposal needs to be different than the act which was defeated,” Carl said. “The mayor’s veto and the council’s failure to override that veto is a dispositive action; it is dead. So something new or substantively different needs to be brought forward for the body to consider.”

Carl told council members he anticipated that Wonsley’s invitation for individual briefings would explain the differences between the two efforts.

The two potential ordinances are expected to be introduced to the City Council on October 5. The council would vote the same day whether to send them to the Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee’s October 10 meeting.

Should the committee vote to advance the proposed ordinances, they would go back to the full council for approval as soon as October 19. 

Thursday’s announcement is the latest development in the fight to increase wages and improve workplace conditions for rideshare drivers. Governor Tim Walz vetoed a bill in May that would have boosted rideshare drivers’ pay and protections. 

Uber and Lyft lobbied against the state bill and Minneapolis ordinance. They threatened to limit operations across the state if the bill became law, and later threatened to cease operations in Minneapolis if the city ordinance was enacted.

Alfonzo Galvan is a reporter for Sahan Journal, covering work, labor, small business, and entrepreneurship. Before joining Sahan Journal, he covered breaking news and immigrant communities in South Dakota,...