Uber, Lyft drivers push local lawmakers to regulate their industry

Abdi Salah (L) and Eid Ali

With a shoestring organizing drive that began just four months ago, Twin Cities Uber and Lyft drivers are pushing elected officials to tighten regulation of the app-based companies, and fighting for safety, transparency and a collective voice in their industry.

The Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association (MULDA) will bring its fledgling campaign to St. Paul tomorrow with a rally at the Capitol, set to begin at 12:30 p.m.

Drivers’ demands include higher pay and greater transparency from Uber and Lyft about how they calculate fares. The companies have slashed rates from nearly $2 per mile to around 85 cents over the last eight years, while scrapping a firm, 20% cap on their commission, drivers said.

Abdi Salah, who drives for both Uber and Lyft, said the companies recently removed fare breakdowns from drivers’ online activity log, leaving them to glean information about their cut from conversations with passengers. He recalled a recent trip from Edina to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, in which he claims he received just $14 out of a passenger’s $50 fare.

“This guy is going on vacation, and he’s pissed off,” Salah remembered. “He’s angry with me, and I was not late. He was mad at me because I was charging him $50. He said it was ridiculous for such a short trip.

“When I dropped him off, I showed him my receipt, and he was shocked. He gave me a $5 tip. Had I not engaged with him, he was going to give me a low rating, and I might not have been allowed to drive again.”

Salah and other drivers have concluded that Uber and Lyft are “charging anything they need to the customer, and the 83 cents per mile minus their (commission), that’s what they give to the driver,” he said.

During an interview earlier this month in the organization’s one-room office, located on the second floor a shopping center in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, MULDA President Eid Ali said the ride sharing companies’ practices amount to wage theft.

“We don’t trust Uber or Lyft, and there’s good reason why we don’t,” said Ali, who helped lead a successful push to regulate taxi companies in Minneapolis a decade ago. “The public is being ripped off, and so are the drivers. Uber and Lyft are getting as much money as they can from the riders, and in the end giving only a little bit to the driver.”

In meetings with Minneapolis City Council members and Mayor Jacob Frey, MULDA drivers have pushed for an ordinance that would regulate rates, as the city does with taxi cabs, and cap the percentage that ridesharing apps can take out in commission.

Drivers also have reached out to St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and, with the rally tomorrow, hope to take their campaign statewide. MULDA’s first public event, a September meeting at the Embassy Suites in Bloomington, drew about 400 drivers and a handful of elected officials.

“They were really surprised,” Ali said of the legislators in attendance. “They were not expecting this type of organizing effort. Maybe they were underestimating us. Maybe they thought we were invisible, but that’s not true.”

While increasing pay and transparency are at the top of MULDA’s agenda, drivers have also raised concerns about safety and job security – issues they hope to one day address through collective bargaining.

The U.S. Department of Labor last week issued a proposal to bar firms like Uber and Lyft from classifying so-called “gig-economy workers” as independent contractors, which takes companies off the hook for benefits like workers compensation – and bars them from bargaining as a union.

Several drivers who came to MULDA’s meeting last month, Ali said, claimed to have been injured on the job, including a man who said he was shot by a passenger, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

“No one has bothered, not Uber and not Lyft, to help (him) because there’s not any protection, not any work compensation to protect those fellow drivers because we’re misclassified,” Ali said. “Up to today, he’s a piece of garbage in their eyes.”


  1. betazeded says:

    Taxi drivers had to buy medallions, join unions and pay for the use of their cabs and were put out of business by scabby Uber abs Lyft drivers. Now they are in a pinch and want unions to bail them out. How about taking care of those Taxi drivers first.

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