Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan recently announced that she will transmit legislation to City Council later this month to propose a new minimum compensation standard for Uber and Lyft drivers to ensure all drivers are paid at least the Seattle minimum wage plus reasonable expenses. Preliminary analysis suggests the new wage standard would improve pay for 84 percent of drivers.
“The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the consequences of the growing gig work industries, most of which do not provide standard worker protections. Building on work begun last year, our legislation will significantly improve the compensation for the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers in our city,” said Durkan. “As we rebuild our economy and City in the wake of COVID-19, and as demand for TNC services begins to recover, we must build back better by ensuring fair wages for Uber and Lyft drivers as they are able to come back to work. It is more important than ever that we pay drivers a fair wage and strengthen the economic resilience of our community of drivers.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers – designated as essential, frontline workers – have been disproportionately impacted by a lack of standard worker protections and a safety net, including unemployment and sick leave. The ordinance announced today is intended to compensate drivers at a rate that would allow for the purchase of health insurance, among other expenses.
“Seattleites believe that all workers, including Uber and Lyft drivers, should earn a living wage. Mayor Durkan’s Fare Share plan is rooted in these values and builds on a legacy of progressive victories like the Fight for 15, wage theft protections, and paid family leave,” said MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant. “This is a huge step toward our shared goal of economic justice for all workers.”
A study by James Parrott of The New School and Michael Reich of the University of California, Berkeley found that drivers in Seattle are making $9.73 an hour after expenses, well below the Seattle minimum wage. Using the study, Seattle will mandate that TNCs pay drivers at least $0.56 per minute plus compensation for reasonable expenses and will ensure drivers are paid for all of their time, including the time spent circling and waiting for a ride.
“My husband and I have aspirations of practicing medicine here in the U.S. as we did in Ethiopia, but we can’t afford to take any time off from driving. One of us must be at home with our kids and the other must be driving, long hours every day, seven days a week just to make ends meet,” said Fana Abreha, an Uber driver and working mother. “I hope a fair pay standard will allow us drivers a financial safety net if we get sick or have unexpected expenses, and the freedom to work towards our dream of a better future for our kids.”
In extensive outreach conducted by the City to almost 11,000 drivers, current TNC drivers consistently cited the need for increased pay and compensation as their highest priority. Uber and Lyft drivers in King County are disproportionately low income and predominately from immigrant and refugee communities. The minimum compensation standard would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Mayor’s Office representatives will present the proposal to City Council next week. The legislation will be submitted to City Council before the end of the month.