Minnesota governor perplexingly vetoes bill to raise Uber/Lyft driver wages, citing ominous concerns about cost and service.
It was a Thursday fraught with tension and uproar as Uber and Lyft drivers gathered outside Governor Tim Walz’s office in the Capitol of Minnesota, decrying the governor’s veto of the bill instituting better pay and job security for drivers of the ride-sharing companies. Demonstrators, who were clearly audible even through closed doors, had demanded that the governor sign the proposed legislation. Yet despite their pleas, Walz chose to veto the bill, citing the need for more time to find the right solution for drivers and riders alike.
Walz’s decision comes on the heels of threats made by Uber to hike ride prices in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and terminate service altogether in the rest of Minnesota if the bill were passed. In a letter to legislative leaders, Walz expressed his belief that the bill would have made Minnesota “one of the most expensive states in the country for rideshare” and likened the cost of rides to those in New York and Seattle, cities with much higher costs of living than Minnesota.
It is worth noting that Walz has never vetoed any legislation during his time as governor. Despite his veto of the current bill, the governor has signed an executive order directing a study on driver working conditions and setting up a committee to develop recommendations for legislation by January 1. In the meantime, ride-hailing drivers in the state must continue to contend with being treated as independent contractors, often without access to benefits such as minimum wage and paid sick leave. Ride-hail driving is also one of the deadliest occupations in the country.
Sen. Omar Fateh, the first Somali American to serve in the Minnesota Senate, had championed the proposed bill and was lifted into the air by drivers outside the Senate chamber right after it passed on Sunday. The bill would have required that drivers receive a minimum of $5 per ride, or at least $1.45 per mile and 34 cents per minute in the metropolitan area. Support for the legislation had come from many of the ride-share drivers, who are predominantly from the area’s Somali and East African community.
For now, it remains to be seen what will come of these efforts and whether Walz will find a solution that satisfies all parties involved.