Eid Ali, president of the Minnesota Uber & Lyft Driver's Association (MULDA), translates for Abddullahi Abdi, a MULDA member who was attacked while driving. Drivers spoke at a July 25, 2023, news conference at Minneapolis City Hall, asking for better wages and workplace protections. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Uber and Lyft drivers are demanding better wages under a proposed Minneapolis ordinance that the public can weigh in on next month. 

The Minnesota Uber & Lyft Driver’s Association (MULDA) held a 10 a.m. press conference at Minneapolis City Hall alongside council members who support the ordinance.

“We just want fair compensation, we’re not asking for a pay raise. No, we want fair compensation,” said Farxan Betel, a local Uber driver.

Betel has been driving for Uber since 2018 and uses that income to support his two children. He said drivers deserve more for supporting their community through tough times like the pandemic.

Another driver, Mauricio Castaneda, said he’s seen his wages continue to decrease over the years while the cost of operating increases.

“We don’t make enough money working 24 hours all day long. And to bring $200-$250 a day is not fair,” Castaneda said.
MULDA, which is led by East African drivers, led unsuccessful efforts earlier this year to pass state legislation that would have given rideshare drivers better wages and protections. The bill was passed in the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Tim Walz, becoming the first bill he has vetoed in his five years in office.

Walz said at the time that rideshare drivers deserved fair wages and safe working conditions, but that the bill was not effective. Several lawmakers of color criticized him for vetoing a bill created by and for people of color. Uber and Lyft strongly opposed the bill, with Uber threatening to leave the state if it was signed into law.

Drivers, supporters, and Council Member Robin Wonsley, lead author of the proposed ordinance, spoke at the Tuesday new conference. The council’s Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee approved the consent item at its 1:30 p.m. hearing Tuesday to advance the proposed ordinance to an August 8 public hearing. 

“We stand against corporate greed, and instead demonstrate solidarity with the thousands of Black and Brown workers and drivers who provide a crucial service to Minneapolis working class residents,” Wonsley said.

The proposed ordinance would guarantee drivers a minimum compensation of $0.51 per minute and $1.40 per mile while transporting a customer, amounts that also increase annually proportional to the city’s minimum wage.

It would also guarantee that riders and drivers get receipts detailing how much the rider was charged, how much the driver received, and how much went to the rideshare company.

The ordinance would eliminate the ability to pay for a ride with a gift card and force app users to use a credit or debit card with their name on it to increase rider safety. 

“A lot of the assaults are being done by people who have a Target gift card or Holiday gas station gift card. And so they’re not traceable,”  said MULDA’s attorney, Stephen Cooper.

The ordinance would also establish protections for drivers dealing with “deactivations” of their rideshare accounts, which occurs when they are frozen out of their accounts after too many customer complaints or for rejecting ride requests. The ordinance would create a process for them to appeal the decision.

The last key point of the proposed ordinance would give the city the authority to create or fund a nonprofit driver’s resource center to support education, advocacy, and legal representation for drivers.

Wonsley addressed a question from the media about pushing forward the ordinance while there are still talks at the state level to pass future legislation to improve wages and working conditions for rideshare drivers. She said council members who support the measure don’t see the ordinance as a conflict with the state efforts.

“We look forward to working with our stakeholders after we pass this to get this across the finish line, so we can not only have the strongest policy in the city, but the strongest policy in the state,” Wonsley said.

Council Member Jason Chavez also pledged his support to the Latino and East African communities represented by the drivers.

“We’re gonna get this policy passed, because we believe our constituents, our residents, our workers deserve to have food on the table. They deserve to pay for their rent. They deserve to be able to live their best life with their family,” Chavez said.

Tuesday’s event comes about a week-and-a-half after Walz announced the members of his rideshare driver legislation task force that will recommend policy changes for next year’s legislative session.

Eid Ali, MULDA president, was named to Walz’s task force as a representative for drivers. Eid said neither MULDA nor the drivers have heard from Uber or Lyft since Walz’s veto. Cooper followed that up by noting that if Uber wanted to raise wages for drivers, they could without speaking to anybody.

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,...