Minneapolis Uber, Lyft drivers gather to push for higher pay

A man talks at a podium
Uber and Lyft driver Farhan Badel joined drivers Tuesday urging city leaders to support their calls for higher pay.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

Updated: Jan. 31, 8:37 p.m. | Posted: Jan 30., 5:27 p.m.

Minnesota Uber and Lyft drivers took a pause from their usual routes to make their voices heard at Minneapolis City Hall Tuesday. 

Their message: “We’re not making enough.” 

A new report published by the Minneapolis Office of the City Auditor Policy and Research Division compared pay under three different compensation models and rates for Lyft and Uber drivers. It projected rates for each model for trips to City Hall from each ward to compare them.

Model A suggests drivers would make $1.40 per mile, an increase from the 56 cents per mile they say they currently make. The report said while it produced higher compensation rates than the other two models, Model A “utilized the work of the Seattle report and accounted for localized factors and scope to determine rates per minute and mile.”

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City staff figured Seattle’s rideshare compensation at $1.55 per mile. Accounting for benefits Seattle provides but Minneapolis does not, the city’s rate was calculated at $1.40 per mile.

Of the three, Model B “appears to produce outcomes that should bring drivers within the minimum compensation range, more information on its formulation would be necessary to determine how it accounts for incurred expenses such as vehicle maintenance,” the report said.

And Model C, with a flat rate, “while the simplest approach that meets the compensation range, poses challenges by not accounting for trip volume, traffic patterns, vehicle depreciation or wear and tear, etc.”

Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association President Eid Ali says compensation should meet or exceed Minneapolis’s large employer minimum wage of $15.57. 

“All of these drivers, including myself, are struggling, we’re not making enough to feed our families. And that is why we need to say it out loud and bring our voices to the places where they belong to,” Ali said. 

Minneapolis Council Member Robin Wonsley joined drivers and criticized Model B, which she said was supported by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

“The example that’s in the report reveals that the mayor’s proposal, Model B, means drivers are actually earning about 30 percent less per ride, than they would earn in Model A, our original proposal,” she said. 

A woman speaks at a podium
Minneapolis city Council Member Robin Wonsley speaks at a press conference on Tuesday.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

“Mayor Frey continues to support paying Minneapolis rideshare drives a fair and equitable wage,” said Frey’s press secretary Ally Peters. And she said the model Frey supports, Model B, would roughly double the current pay of drivers. 

Farhan Badel has been driving for Uber and Lyft since 2018 and said riders are overcharged and drivers are underpaid. 

“We are asking for the mayor to listen to the residents of the city, to listen to the drivers, to work with the city council members so we can pass the best city ordinance regarding rideshare regulations,” Badel said. 

Last year, Frey vetoed an ordinance that would have required higher pay and better protections for rideshare drivers in the city. Lyft and Uber were against the ordinance.

Lyft officials argued the policy would make fares too expensive in the city, while Uber sent a message to customers asking them to lobby the mayor and council members to oppose the policy. The companies said they’d stop serving the city if the ordinance, which was later vetoed, went into effect in January.

City officials said they expect the council to take a final vote sometime in March.