No minimum wage for Uber, Lyft drivers after CT lawmakers scrap proposal

Drivers have lobbied at the state Capitol for weeks – demanding better pay and more transparency.

John Craven

Mar 21, 2024, 9:20 PM

Updated 24 days ago

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State lawmakers dealt Uber and Lyft drivers a major road block on Thursday, scrapping a controversial proposal to guarantee drivers at least 85% of each fare.
Ride share operators warned it could make Connecticut "the most expensive market in the country."
LONGER HOURS, LOWER PAY
Drivers have lobbied at the state Capitol for weeks – demanding better pay and more transparency.
"When I started we were able to get $18 to go to the airport," said Lyft driver Ray Phillips. "Now, they are offering you $11 and $12."
A bill would have given drivers a minimum wage – even though they are "independent contractors" instead of employees. Drivers would have received $1.30 per mile or 85% of the total fare – whichever was higher.
"This concept has been tried and worked in New York City and Washington state and Seattle," said James Bhandry-Alexander, an attorney for Connecticut Drivers United.
MINIMUM WAGE SCRAPPED
On Thursday, the Legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee dropped the wage proposal over cost concerns.
Uber warned that "guaranteeing drivers 85% of rider fares may make operating in the State untenable" and force customers to pay 134% more. Uber also noted significant differences between Connecticut drivers and ones in New York City, where "rates were to compensate drivers for the increased costs related to being a professional commercial driver, including commercial insurance and commercial licensing costs."
The Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau said higher fares could actually backfire on drivers.
"On its face, the legislation claims to increase driver pay," CTMEETINGS president Robert Murdock testified. "However, in reality, this bill could drive up ride prices, which in turn would depress ride demand, leading to fewer rideshare trips and lower overall earnings for drivers."
OTHER PROTECTIONS ADVANCE
Ride share drivers did win some concessions, including more transparency in how they're paid.
"How transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft calculate the pay is hidden from drivers and passengers alike," Jesenia Rodriguez, a driver from New Haven, told lawmakers. "When we complete a trip, we are not shown why we were paid what we were paid and passengers do not see how much the driver gets when selecting how much to tip."
The bill advanced by the Labor Committee on Thursday also includes a major goal for drivers – potentially being able to pick up passengers in New York.
"One time I went early in the morning to bring someone to New York and took literally the entire day to come back," Rodriguez said. "It took me seven hours to get back to Connecticut, with Uber covering none of my expenses – not even tolls. Overall, I gained less than $30 for that trip, not including wear and tear on my car."
The bill would require Connecticut to try and negotiate a "reciprocity agreement" with neighboring states. That could be a tall order in New York City, where a longstanding agreement sharply limits the number of ride share drivers – who are also required to have a Taxi and Limo Commission license.
For longtime drivers like Ray Phillips, ride-sharing just doesn't seem worth it anymore.
"You speak to the Uber drivers who have been there seven, eight years and they will tell you they used to work five, six hours and be satisfied," he said. "Now drivers are out on the road 13, 14, 15 hours."
The stripped-down bill now heads to the full Connecticut House of Representatives. The 2024 legislative session ends on May 8.


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