Seattle's ride share drivers will earn a minimum wage next year, city leaders vote

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The Seattle City Council has approved a new wage standard that guarantees a minimum wage for local Uber and Lyft drivers after months of pushback from employers.

The Fair Pay Standard approved by the Seattle City Council on Tuesday allows drivers contracted with rideshare companies to earn $0.56 per minute, a per-mile rate, and charge their employers for business expenses like rest breaks and cleaning.

The legislation completes Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Fare Share plan that passed the city council last fall, which boasted legal protections for drivers kicked off of ridesharing apps for unjust cause.

Durkan’s plan was supported by more than 60 housing, transit, labor, environmental, health, and social justice groups.

“The labor movement is proud to support Black and brown immigrant workers in their struggle for fairness,” John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117 J, said last year. “Uber and Lyft drivers deserve what all workers deserve – a living wage, dignity and respect.”

Tuesday’s vote follows an independent, city-commissioned study which found that Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle often earn less than minimum wage after expenses.

Rideshare drivers nationwide have seen their average pay drop by 53% between 2013 to 2018, according to a JP Morgan Chase study.

“The need for a Fair Pay Standard that combats racial inequity has never been more urgent than it is now for Black and brown immigrant drivers who are on the front lines of both the economic and public health impacts of the pandemic,” said Drivers Union President Peter Kuel. “We thank the Mayor for introducing this urgently needed measure and are eager to work with City Council to build on the plan with improved transparency and living wage protections that benefit both riders and drivers.”

Drive Forward, an Uber-backed group, has argued this new legislation will hurt job growth in the competitive industry.

“While we support the Mayor’s goals, a nearly identical law in New York City led to a 30% price increase for riders and massive protest among drivers,” Uber said in a statement. “We hope to be able to work with the City of Seattle to limit the negative impacts on riders and drivers.”

A July 6 study out of Cornell University commissioned by Uber and Lyft found that Seattle rideshare drivers already made up to $23 per hour after expenses.

The study has drawn much controversy from among economists who wrote a joint letter criticizing what they described as biased and flawed research.

An opposition study from New School and UC Berkeley’s James A. Parrott and Michael Reich found Seattle drivers earned just $9.73 an hour after expenses.

Parrott and Reich have alleged over the summer that the Cornell study cherrypicks data shared with them by Uber and Lyft which miscalculates rideshare drivers’ earnings.

Seattle’s rideshare pay standard takes effect January 1, 2021.

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