Ride-share drivers call for better pay, but could it backfire?
Drivers for Uber, Lyft and food delivery services set their vehicles for Hartford Thursday, asking Connecticut lawmakers to pass a guaranteed minimum wage for ride-sharing drivers.
“It's too much,” said Uber driver Carlos Gomez. “The driver is working 16 hours in the day. Hundred-hour week.”
A new bill would give drivers 85% of the total fare and guarantee them at least 60 cents per minute – or $1.30 per mile. Those rates would be adjusted each year for inflation, as well as the price of gas or electric vehicle charging. Ride-share apps would also have to compensate drivers for damage and maintenance.
“During the pandemic, I was laid off and thought I could make extra money working for UberEats. I basically ended up paying out of my pocket to deliver food to other people," said Ivelisse Correa of Hartford. “America might ‘run on Dunkin,’ but it gets there via InstaCart and DoorDash, so if we're not protecting these drivers, what are we doing?”
But ride-sharing companies warned the bill could backfire on drivers. In written testimony, Lyft warned that it would lead to “skyrocketing price increases ... dramatically limiting driver demand.”
If the bill passes, Uber suggested it may pull out of Connecticut altogether. The app made a similar threat when New York City approved stricter regulations several years ago. Uber still operates there.
“Guaranteeing drivers 85% of rider fares may make operating in the state untenable given the high cost of insurance required by the state, payment processing, state required background checks and other costs borne by the company,” the company wrote to Connecticut lawmakers.
Both companies also argued that fewer customers could also mean more drunk drivers leaving bars.
Ride-share drivers pushed back on the idea that customers would stop using the apps.
“When it's like a surge, it's like 20 bucks. But people still have to use it because a lot of people don't have cars,” former Uber driver James Williams told lawmakers. “And sometimes, it could be more cheaper to use an Uber than actually getting a vehicle and pay insurance and pay for the car when cars are expensive.”
The bill would also partly compensate drivers for trips out of state – a big deal for drivers who take customers to the airports in New York. It also directs Connecticut to seek reciprocity agreements with New York and other neighboring states, allowing drivers to pick up riders there.
The bill faces a vote in the Labor and Public Employees Committee in the coming weeks.