Business & Economy

Frey again pushes Minneapolis City Council to reconsider Uber/Lyft ordinance

A closeup of Uber and Lyft stickers
Uber and Lyft stickers are prominently displayed on a Toyota Camry in Minneapolis March 28.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated: April 9, 10:45 a.m. | Posted: April 8, 6:30 p.m.

Some advocates for people who are disabled and members of the business community are urging the Minneapolis City Council to adjust a new rideshare ordinance, warning that it would be disastrous for rideshare companies to stop service in the city at the end of the month.

The rideshare companies are upset over an ordinance passed by the council last month that would increase rideshare driver pay and give them more employment protections. Both Uber and Lyft have said they’ll cease operations in the city if the policy is enacted on May 1.  

Rideshare services have been a reliable, affordable and convenient way for people with disabilities to get around, said Corbb O’Connor, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota.

“The city council did not get this right. We got it wrong. Let’s step back from the cliff, and make sure that we can have a responsible discussion about a path forward,” O’Connor said. 

Supporters of the council’s rideshare ordinance have said their goal is to ensure that drivers are making the city’s required minimum wage of $15.57 after expenses. They’ve said other rideshare companies are lining up to serve Minneapolis if Uber and Lyft make good on their threats to leave.

O’Connor said the Federation for the Blind supports other rideshare companies, but worried that it will take time for them to get licensed and start providing services. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the city’s policy on rideshare companies should be based on data from a recent state report on ridesharing and not “ideology.”

“When we enact policy, we should be trusting experts. When we push forward policy, we should not be making it up ourselves, but we should be listening to data and facts,” Frey said. 

The Minneapolis ordinance would raise the rates to $1.40 a mile and .51 cents per minute on May 1. Rideshare companies have said those numbers would make rideshares services unaffordable for the public.

The mayor, who vetoed the ordinance but was overridden by the council, said he would support a policy that requires a pay rate of .89 cents per mile and about .49 cents per minute, which were identified in a recent report by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. 

“I couldn’t care less about Uber and Lyft’s bottom line, this is not about helping those two companies,” Frey said. “This is about helping the people that rely on this important transportation network to get from Point A to Point B.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said he would also support a wage higher than the state's recommended number.

Council Member Andrea Jenkins gave notice that she’s open to reconsidering the ordinance at the council’s full meeting Thursday.

“We have some new information, and I think it’s incumbent on elected folks to really be mindful of the data, and if we made a mistake, then we need to be willing to change,” Jenkins said.  

A phone sits on a dashboard car mount
A rideshare driver pulls up a job on the Lyft driver app, displaying a $7 fee for a ride from downtown Minneapolis to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on March 28.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The original authors of the ordinance have said they won’t negotiate on whether drivers will earn the city’s minimum wage.

“The mayor asked if this ordinance paves the way for increased enforcement of the minimum wage in other industries. The answer is yes,” Council Member Robin Wonsley said. “A worker should be protected by that minimum wage whether they are driving rideshare, doing care work, waiting tables, or doing construction.” 

Wonsley said in a statement that she’s excited to welcome new rideshare companies to the city that will pay drivers the required minimum wage.

A spokesperson for the city of Minneapolis said four other rideshare companies have applied for a license, but none have yet been approved. Each company must now pay the city a $47,760  fee and go through a formal review process.

Hospitality Minnesota President and CEO Angie Whitcomb said the ordinance “represents a considerable threat to the economic growth and revitalization of our region.” 

“Uber and Lyft will be fine. The local economy and the very workers you’re trying to protect, won’t be,” Whitcomb said.  

The Minneapolis Regional Chamber and the Minneapolis Downtown Council have launched a website urging the council to act before the rideshare companies leave the city.

The Minneapolis ordinance was pushed forward with the support of organizations representing rideshare drivers. A bill giving rideshare drivers statewide a boost in pay and more employment protections has been moving forward at the state Legislature.

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