Home » Walz Vetoes Rideshare Wages Bill After Uber Threatens to Halt Operations Outside Twin Cities Over it

Walz Vetoes Rideshare Wages Bill After Uber Threatens to Halt Operations Outside Twin Cities Over it

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz has vetoed a bill that would have raised wages for rideshare drivers, and at the same time signed an executive order to create a committee for further study.

This comes after rideshare company Uber threatened to stop operating outside of the Twin Cities area later this summer if the governor signed the bill into law.

“I think these workers, these drivers in the gig economy – we’re looking at a brand new model of how things are done. They’re independent contractors and I think there’s no doubt about it, there’s got to be some protections. There’s gotta be minimum wage, there’s got to be protections on how they get deactivated. So I’m in agreement with them. I don’t believe the vehicle that passed the legislature at the very end was the vehicle to do that,” Walz told WCCO’s Allen Henry exclusively after he issued the veto. “

WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports this is the first time Walz has ever vetoed a bill in his tenure as Minnesota’s governor.

Walz tells WCCO that Uber’s threat was one factor – but not the only one – that played into his decision to veto.

“You take it into consideration, certainly. I don’t necessarily view that they’re evil in this but I do believe there needs to be more transparency in how this works. There’s concerns coming from the disability community, some of the victims and domestic violence folks who use Uber to get out of these tough situations are simply not comfortable with where this is at,” Walz said. “Dakota County had concerns about this cause folks who receive services and go to appointments use Uber and are reimbursed through the county so it does matter to me what they say. That’s why I want them at the table in a transparent manner, working with drivers, working with riders, working with disability communities to find a working solution that’s good for all of us.”

The working group will be comprised of legislators, drivers, rideshare company representatives, members of the disability community, labor, riders, and others, and is expected to issue recommendations for furthering rideshare legislation next session.

Following Walz’s veto, Uber spokesperson Freddi Goldstein released the following statement:

“While it was always our goal to pass comprehensive legislation this session that would raise rates for drivers while providing them the flexibility and benefits they tell us they want, that is not the bill we ended up with. We appreciate the opportunity to work together to get this right and hope the legislature quickly passes a compromise in February.” 

Lyft spokesperson CJ Macklin, meanwhile, said this:

“We appreciate Gov. Walz listening to many in the community, vetoing the bill and instead creating a task force to properly study these important issues. Lawmakers should pass fair pay and other protections, but it must be done in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the affordability and safety of those who rely on the service. We recently did this in Washington state, where drivers, labor leaders, elected officials and the companies came together to pass smart legislation that benefited all involved. We look forward to continuing our engagement and finding a similar pathway forward here in Minnesota.”

The DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature sent the bill to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk over the weekend. 

Supporters of the proposal said drivers are not making a livable wage at a time when gas prices are high and they face increased risks on the road. Last fall, a 20-year-old pled guilty to federal charges of targeting rideshare drivers at gunpoint.

The proposal set new minimum payment rates to boost the driver’s share of a ride’s final tab. It would have required compensation of at least $1.45 per mile and 34 cents per minute for rides in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, with a 20-cent decrease in the mileage rate elsewhere in the state.

The proposal would have also created a way to appeal a company’s decision to kick a driver off the platform. Some drivers say they are “deactivated” without evidence or any opportunity to challenge the move.

Uber claimed that rides in the Twin Cities on the app would be some of the most expensive in the country if the bill was signed into law — even more than in New York — with at least a 30% increase in the average fare.

Walz said another reason for his veto was the lack of data surrounding the issue.

“When I ask, how does this compare to other places? How much is a driver making? What’s the profit for the company? How many people are being deactivated? There’s no data. There’s no data. It’s just an empty black hole,” he said.

Supporters of the bill expressed their disappointment online. On Twitter, The Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association said, “It is surprising that [Tim Walz] sides with corporates over poor drivers who campaigned and voted for him like he would be their savior.”

State Senator Omar Fateh of South Minneapolis and an author of the bill tweeted “Today, we saw the power corporations hold on our government despite the trifecta.”

The Minnesota House and Senate People of Color and Indigenous Caucus also issued a statement, saying in part:  

“We are disappointed in Governor Walz for vetoing the rideshare legislation. Moreover, it is disheartening that the first veto of his term would be against worker protections for BIPOC and immigrant drivers.”

Walz tells WCCO he still believes changes need to be made and hopes they’ll allow more time to get it done.

“I tell them: I understand their disappointment, I understand their frustrations. But I hope they know I’m with them on their cause. This just wasn’t the vehicle to get it done,” he said. “It was a hard decision because I think there was a great disappointment amongst the drivers that saw a piece of legislation pass. Problem is, late in the session… it needs a little more vetting. And that’s what we’ll do,”

While acknowledging the difficulty of the decision and the disappointment it caused, Walz says he’s confident a veto was the right choice.

“They’re not always going to be popular decisions but I hope they know they’re always going to be in the best interests of Minnesotans, trying to weigh all of the different inputs from folks,” Walz said. “Given a little bit of time here and bringing folks to the table, we can get this right and I think it can be a template for the rest of the country. So, it was the right decision.”

Source : CBS