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

The Minneapolis City Council passed a proposed ordinance Thursday that would grant rideshare drivers in the city increased wages, rights and protections, but failed to win enough votes to overcome a possible veto by Mayor Jacob Frey.

The vote came days after both Uber and Lyft emailed riders in the city and told the city council they’d cease operations in Minneapolis should the ordinance pass.

It also followed Governor Tim Walz’s veto in May of a bill passed by the Legislature that would have increased wages for ride-share drivers throughout Minnesota.

After his veto, the governor announced the creation of a committee tasked with researching rideshare issues and helping shape policy for next year’s legislative session.

Frey was noncommittal in stating whether or not he’d support the ordinance until he emailed the council Wednesday night, telling them the ordinance needed more time. He has not said yet whether he will veto it. 

Frey has until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to veto the ordinance.

Supporters of the ordinance needed nine votes to avoid a possible veto. The council voted 7-5 in favor of the proposal. 

Before its vote to approve the proposal, some council members tried unsuccessfully to send it back to committee.

“This is going to be a great day for us,” said Eid Ali, president of the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association before the council meeting started.

Uber and Lyft drivers packed the chambers and overflow rooms at City Hall as they awaited the outcome of the vote.

Many drivers could be seen pacing the halls outside the chambers in frustration as Council member Andrew Johnson voiced his issues with the ordinance.

After the vote, however, the venue erupted with celebration. Council member and lead author of the ordinance, Robin Wonsley, embraced supporters with tears running down her face.

“The ball is in Mayor Frey’s court,” Wonsley said. “I’m glad at least the majority of my colleagues decided to stand with our drivers.”

Eid addressed supporters alongside Wonsley and said the drivers were confident Frey would support the ordinance.

Eid along with other MULDA members said they had a phone call with Frey in the last week.

“He kind of said he was going to talk to people from different backgrounds on this issue,” Eid said, “We didn’t have any commitment, we’re expecting him to just be the mayor of the people and to support the workers.”

Lyft sent a statement to Sahan Journal after the ordinance passed,  reiterating its argument that the ordinance was rushed through the city council.

“If it becomes law, drivers would ultimately earn less because prices could double and only the most wealthy could still afford a ride,” said the statement. “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.”

Freddi Goldstein, an Uber spokeswoman, said the company was “disappointed” after hearing about the vote’s results. She said Uber would limit their services should the ordinance be enacted.

“As a result of the incredibly expensive rates set forth in the bill, if it becomes law, beginning December 31, we will no longer offer UberX in Minneapolis,” Goldstein said. “We will only offer premium products, such as Uber Black and Uber SUV, to match the premium prices required by the ordinance.” 

The ordinance would guarantee drivers a minimum compensation of $0.51 per minute and $1.40 per mile while they are transporting a customer. That would have increased annually proportional to the city’s minimum wage. 

An amendment added before the ordinance passed also states drivers would be paid $1.81 per mile and $0.51 per minute for the time transporting a rider in a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Uber gives riders in Minneapolis a separate wheelchair accessible vehicle option when booking a ride.

It would also allow drivers more rights when fighting “deactivations” or shutdowns of their accounts by the apps after a complaint, and granted them more safety features, such as not allowing riders to sign up to be picked up with a gift card. Riders using gift cards who engage in criminal activity are harder to trace, according to drivers.

Four of the 13 council members who spoke to Sahan Journal prior to the council meeting said they supported the proposed ordinance.

Council member Robin Wonsley, lead author of the proposed ordinance, along with fellow council members Jason Chavez and Jamal Osman, led the effort to get the ordinance to a full council vote.

The only other council member who said they’d support the proposal was Elliott Payne.

Wonsley, Chavez, Osman and Payne were joined in supporting the proposal by fellow council members Jeremiah Ellison, Aisha Chughtai and Andrea Jenkins.

Council members LeTrisha Vetaw, Michael Rainville, Andrew Johnson, Emily Koski and Linea Palmisano voted against the ordinance.

In order to overcome a possible veto, supporters would have to persuade two of them to change their position on the proposal. 

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,...