Walz vetoes rideshare wages bill after Uber threatens to halt operations outside Twin Cities over it
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz vetoed a bill that would have raised wages for toll drivers and at the same time signed an executive order to create a committee for further study.
It comes after ride-sharing company Uber threatened to stop operating outside the Twin Cities area later this summer if the governor signs the bill.
“I think these workers, these executives in the gig economy — we’re looking at a whole new model of how things are done. They’re independent contractors, and I think there’s no question about that, there should be some protections. There should be be the minimum wage, there should be protections in how they are disabled. So I agree with them. I don’t believe the vehicle that passed the legislature in the end was the vehicle to do that,” Walz said. WCCO’s Allen Henry exclusively after issuing the veto. “
WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports that this is the first time Walz has vetoed a bill in his tenure as Minnesota governor.
Walz tells WCCO that Uber’s threat was a factor — but not the only one — that played into his decision to veto.
“You take it into account, of course. I don’t necessarily think they’re bad at it, but I do believe there needs to be more transparency in how this works. There are concerns coming from the disability community, some of the victims and domestic violence people who use Uber to get out of these difficult situations, they’re just not happy with where it’s at,” Walz said. “Dakota County had concerns about why people who get services and go to appointments use Uber and get reimbursed through the county, so it matters to me what they say. That’s why I want them at the table in a transparent way, working with drivers, working with riders, working with disability communities to find a working solution that’s good for all of us.”
The task force will consist of lawmakers, drivers, rideshare company representatives, members of the disability community, workers, riders and others, and is expected to issue recommendations for advancing rideshare legislation next session.
After Walz’s veto, Uber spokesman Freddy Goldstein released the following statement:
“While it was always our goal to pass comprehensive legislation this session that would increase rates for drivers while providing them with the flexibility and benefits they tell us they want, this is not the bill we ended up with. We appreciate the opportunity to work together to get this right, and we hope the Legislature quickly passes a compromise in February.”
Lyft spokesperson CJ Macklin, meanwhile, had this to say:
“We appreciate Governor Walz listening to many in the community, vetoing the bill and instead creating a task force to properly study these important issues. Lawmakers must pass fair wages and other protections, but this it must be done in a way that does not jeopardize the affordability and safety of those who rely on the service. We recently did so in Washington state, where drivers, labor leaders, elected officials and companies came together to pass smart legislation that benefited everyone involved. We look forward to continuing our commitment and finding a similar path 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 living wage at a time when gas prices are high and they face increasing dangers on the road. Last fall, a 20-year-old man pleaded guilty to federal charges of targeting motorists with a gun.
The proposal sets new minimum payment rates to increase the driver’s share of the final tab of a trip. It would have required compensation of at least $1.45 per mile and 34 cents per minute for trips in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area, with a 20-cent reduction in the mileage rate elsewhere in the state.
The proposal would also have created a way to appeal a company’s decision to remove a driver from the platform. Some drivers say they have been “disabled” 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 were signed into law — even more so than in New York — with at least a 30% increase in the average fare.
Walz said another reason for his veto was a lack of data on the issue.
“When I ask, how does this compare to other countries? How much does a driver make? What’s the profit for the company? How many people are being turned off? There’s no data. There’s no data. It’s just an empty black hole.” he said.
Supporters of the bill expressed their frustration online. On Twitter, the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association said, “It is amazing that [Tim Walz] he sides with the corporations over the poor drivers who campaigned and voted for him as if he was going to be their savior.”
State Sen. Omar Fateh of South Minneapolis and an author of the bill tweeted: “Today, we saw the energy corporations carry our government despite the trifecta.”
The Minnesota House and Senate People of Color and Indigenous Caucus also released a statement, saying in part:
“We are disappointed in Governor Walz for vetoing rideshare legislation. Furthermore, it is disheartening that the first veto of his term would be against worker protections for BIPOC and immigrants.
Walz tells WCCO he still believes changes need to be made and hopes they allow more time to make them.
“I tell them: I understand their frustration, I understand their frustrations. But I hope they know I’m with them in their cause. This just wasn’t the means to do it,” he said. “It was a tough decision because I think there was a lot of frustration among drivers who saw some of the legislation passed. The problem is that at the end of the session … we need a little more vetting. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
While acknowledging the difficulty of the decision and the frustration it caused, Walz says he is confident the 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 interest of Minnesotans, trying to weigh all the different inputs from people,” Walz said. “Given some time here and bringing people to the table, we can get this right and I think it can be a model for the rest of the country. So it was the right decision.”