Uber Bullies Minnesota Governor Into Vetoing Driver Minimum Pay Law

Photo of Tim Walz
Photo of Tim Walz
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Tim Walz vetoed a bill that would’ve granted rideshare drivers minimum pay, at Uber’s urging.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has vetoed a bill that would’ve set a minimum wage for rideshare drivers in the state. His decision—the first veto of his gubernatorial tenure—came after Uber threatened to cease operations across most of Minnesota, if the legislation became law.

“Rideshare drivers deserve safe working conditions and fair wages,” Walz wrote in a letter announcing the veto on Thursday. “However, House File 2369 is not the right bill to achieve these goals and is simply not ready to be codified in Minnesota Law.” He further claimed that the measure “could make Minnesota one of the most expensive states in the country for rideshare” on par with cities like New York and Seattle—both places that have already enacted pay floors for rideshare drivers.

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Minnesota’s bill would’ve guaranteed drivers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area a base wage of $1.45 per mile and $0.34 per minute, plus annual adjustment increases based on the Consumer Price Index. Elsewhere in the state, those minimums would have been $0.20 lower. It also would’ve introduced other protections, like forcing rideshare companies to provide more transparency surrounding driver deactivations, and granting drivers the right to appeal such decisions.

The would-be law narrowly passed both Minnesota’s House of Reps and State Senate, despite significant opposition from rideshare companies. But on Thursday, as the bill landed on Walz’s desk, Uber upped the pressure, claiming that the legislation would “make it impossible to continue serving most areas of the state,” in a statement to multiple news outlets. “If the bill is signed into law, beginning August 1, Uber will stop operating our ride service outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. In the metro area, we will only offer premium products to match the premium prices required by the bill.”

Uber’s outright threat was a factor in Walz’s decision, but not the only one, the governor claimed to local outlet WCCO News. He said that the measure had prompted concern from the disability community and others who might rely on rideshare. In addition to the veto, Walz also issued an executive order creating a commission to study rideshare business in the state and create future policy recommendations.

Rideshare companies celebrated the move. Uber claimed it would support a different bill that set lower pay minimums and ensured drivers were classified as independent contracts, not employees—a critical designation fight playing out in multiple other states. A Lyft spokesperson told WCCO “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 look forward to continuing our engagement.”

In contrast, proponents of the bill were disappointed with the governor and dissatisfied with his promises of a working group and future legislative efforts. “It is surprising that @GovTimWalz sides with corporates over poor drivers who campaigned and voted for him like he would be their savior,” the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association wrote on Twitter.

“Today, we saw the power corporations hold on our government,” tweeted State Senator Omar Fateh who co-authored the senate version of the vetoed legislation. “The fight is not over, and I promise you I wont back down.”

The Minnesota House and Senate People of Color and Indigenous Caucus also issued a statement. “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,” the Caucus wrote. “By vetoing the bill, Governor Walz discredited the amount of work legislators, community leaders, and advocates put in to ensure the bill was reflective of worker needs and stakeholders’ concerns.”

Rideshare drivers and other gig workers have been fighting for fair pay and better protections nationwide, and beyond, in recent years. Minnesota is just one of many states where the conflict between corporate interests and demands for improved working conditions has made it to the legislature. In places like Washington state and New York City, as mentioned above, workers have made headway. Beyond the pay minimums in Washington, newly passed legislation also guarantees drivers paid family and medical leave.

The state of Massachusetts sued Uber and Lyft in 2020, alleging the companies improperly classify their drivers as contractors and deny the workers employee benefits. More recently, lawmakers in the New England state introduced a bill to boost rideshare driver protections even further.

In contrast, California courts have upheld a ballot measure that specifically designates rideshare workers as independent contractors, and exempts them from employee rights and protections. The workers’ group that sued over the measure is likely to appeal.

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