An Uber sign is displayed inside a car in Palatine, Ill., Monday, May 22, 2023. Credit: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday vetoed an ordinance passed by the Minneapolis City Council that would have increased wages for rideshare drivers across the city.

News of the veto was shared by Council Member Robin Wonsley’s office Tuesday afternoon. Wonsley was the ordinance’s lead author.

The Minneapolis policy was developed over eight months of consultation with drivers, city staff, and national experts. There was a concentrated effort from both Uber and Lyft corporate lobbyists to veto the ordinance, according to a press release by Wonsley’s office.

“This veto is an inexcusable betrayal of Minneapolis workers. The ordinance was developed over eight months of consultation with drivers, city staff, and national experts,” Wonsley said. “As a Council Member, Jacob Frey voted to approve a $15 minimum wage, but evidently he is ready to abandon any commitment to living wages or workers’ rights under the pressure of lobbying by multibillion-dollar out-of-state corporations.

“This fight is not over. The drivers who have been organizing for this will continue to show up, because their livelihoods are on the line.”

Eid Ali, president of the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA), told Sahan Journal that Tuesday’s news was “disappointing,” given how much effort drivers put into getting the ordinance passed.

“It’s a little bit of a gray day for thousands of families who were expecting a different outcome, but it is what it is and we are going to work on some of the alternatives that we think we have ahead of us, and we’ll move on and go from there,” Eid said.

Eid said he hadn’t spoken to Frey as of late Tuesday afternoon, but had a missed call from the mayor that he unsuccessfully tried to return.

Frey did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday. He served as a City Council member from 2014 to 2018 before becoming mayor.

Frey told council members he could not support the ordinance, according to a letter obtained by Sahan Journal that Frey sent to council members before the veto became public.

“In the coming weeks, we will start a process for creating a new ordinance–a process that will include input from a broad set of stakeholders, including drivers, labor unions, business associations, disability advocates, City staff, Council representation, Mayor’s staff, and representatives from Uber and Lyft. This will be a partnership, and we will get this right,” Frey’s letter read.

Frey also told council members 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 told council members Uber has also 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. Both commitments are to take effect immediately, according to Frey’s letter.

Uber will continue working with Somali Community Resettlement Services (SCRS), a local nonprofit, to assist drivers who wish to appeal the company’s decision to deactivate their status as a driver, according to a press release from Frey’s office.

SCRS has a direct line to the “Deactivation Review” team at Uber and the ability to provide additional context and supporting documentation when requesting Uber review a driver’s case, according to the press release.

Eid said he hasn’t been briefed on Frey’s agreements with Uber, but would be willing to speak about them with the mayor.

He also said MULDA will continue its efforts at the state and local level to improve pay and conditions for rideshare drivers.

“So, we are thinking about a number of things that we think will be very helpful to do for those drivers,” Eid said.

Eid said there’s been talks at state and city levels to bring competition into the rideshare market and provide alternatives to Uber and Lyft. He did not go into detail regarding the subject.

Council Member Jason Chavez took to social media to voice his frustration at Frey’s veto, calling it a slap to the face to thousands of workers in the city.

“As Council members, our job isn’t to count on pinky promises from multi billion-dollar corporations that they’ll do the right thing,” tweeted Chavez, who supported the ordinance. “Our job is to make laws that guarantee workers can earn a living wage.”

The ordinance passed by the City Council last week would’ve guaranteed drivers a minimum compensation of $0.51 per minute and $1.40 per mile while they are transporting a customer within city boundaries. That would have 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 the time transporting a rider in a wheelchair accessible vehicle.

Wonsley also took to social media to express concern with the mayor’s commitments with Uber saying, “It’s not a law.”

“Frey’s own administration helped craft Fair Drives Safe Rides after eight months of research.  Today he vetoed that policy and announced he cut a backroom deal with Uber…,” Wonsley tweeted.

The ordinance passed the City Council last week on a 7-5 vote. Council members Robin Wonsley, Jason Chavez, Jamal Osman, Elliott Payne, Jeremiah Ellison, Aisha Chughtai, and Andrea Jenkins voted in favor of the ordinance. 

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

The ordinance needed at least nine supporters to overcome Frey’s veto.

Frey’s veto comes nearly three months after Governor Tim Walz vetoed a bill at the state level that would’ve improved wages and workplace conditions for drivers. 

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

The Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association organized drivers across the state and supported the bill at the state level and the Minneapolis ordinance.

Senator Omar Fateh also addressed Tuesday’s news on Twitter, and promised that new state legislation next year would address the rideshare issues. He advocated for the bill vetoed by Walz.

“We will pass our state version this upcoming session and it WILL be signed into law. I will not allow our state to stand by and watch as our workers continue to be screwed over,” Omar tweeted.

Leading up to Walz’s and Frey’s vetoes, Uber and Lyft threatened to cease or limit their operations in Minnesota and Minneapolis should the law change.

In Minneapolis, Uber said it would stop offering its UberX option for riders, and instead only offer premium services to match the increased price as a result of the ordinance.

Lyft said it’d completely stop operating in Minneapolis.

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

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,...