Mayor Jenny Durkan after a meeting with Uber and Lyft Drivers.
Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers celebrated the passage of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s ‘Fare Share’ plan by the City Council today, calling it a historic victory that will provide long-sought labor protections and lead to higher pay for the City’s 30,000 ride-hail drivers.
This groundbreaking legislation establishes first-in-the-nation legal protections against unwarranted deactivations. The legislation will also establish a Driver Resolution Center to provide a wide range of support services to drivers.
“After I was hit by an uninsured motorist, Uber shut off my app. Uber calls it deactivation, I call it getting fired for no reason,” says Bob Gulbranson, who has driven for Uber for several years. “This legislation gives drivers a voice and a chance to be treated fairly.”
In addition to creating a grievance process and funding a worker organization for drivers, the legislation mandates that all drivers be paid no less than Seattle’s minimum wage after expenses by July 1, 2020. The City will commission an independent wage study with driver input to determine appropriate pay for drivers based on hours worked, expenses incurred, and benefits.
At today’s City Council budget hearing, drivers said they were eager to participate in the study to help develop a fair pay standard so that they can finally earn a living wage after expenses and stop the race-to-the-bottom in Seattle’s ride-hail industry.
“I support my family with this job,” says Sukchain Banwait, a long-time Uber and Lyft driver. “We pay for the car, we pay for the gas, we pay for the maintenance, and we pay for the depreciation. We work long hours, and we deserve to get paid fairly.”
The legislation is funded through a 51-cent tax on trips by ride-hail giants Uber and Lyft. Proceeds from the fee will also support community investments in affordable housing and transit improvements so that drivers and other working families in Seattle have a greater opportunity to live closer to where they work.
Teamsters Local 117 has worked with the App-Based Drivers Association to improve conditions for drivers in Seattle’s ride-hail industry. Both organizations are members of a Fare Share coalition of over 60 housing, transit, labor, environmental, health, and social justice groups that have come together to support the legislation and to make sure Seattle’s growth works for everyone.
At a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Uber and Lyft drivers urged the Seattle City Council to support their ‘Fare Share’ priorities to establish a minimum pay standard with driver input, combat unwarranted deactivations, and fund driver support services and other community investments through a 51 cent tax on the ride-hail giants.
At the event, drivers shared stories of how declining pay, a lack of basic labor protections, and sudden deactivation without recourse has impacted their livelihoods.
“Since I started driving for Uber, my pay has been cut in half," said Sukhchain Banwait who started driving for Uber in 2013. "But while driver pay has gone down, Uber charges my customers more and more and pockets the difference. I'm glad the City is looking at establishing a fair minimum pay standard to stop the race to the bottom in driver pay."
"I'm glad the City is looking at establishing a fair minimum pay standard to stop the race to the bottom in driver pay."
According to the Federal Reserve, 58% of gig economy workers cannot afford a $400 emergency expense. This means that thousands of drivers in Seattle are one vehicle repair away from an economic crisis. Drivers are especially vulnerable when they can be wrongly terminated by Uber and Lyft without recourse.
“Many drivers are suffering from unfair deactivations, leaving us with expensive car payments but without income to support our families,” said Mohamed Aria, one of the first Uber drivers in Seattle. “Drivers are the ones who built this business, and we deserve to be treated fairly.”
Speaking in support of the drivers’ priorities, City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda highlighted the need for an impartial process for drivers to appeal unfair deactivations. “I’ve heard from countless drivers who have been unjustly deactivated,” Councilmember Mosqueda said. "When you have a job, particularly a job that requires tens of thousands of dollars of investment, asking for a fair process for adjudicating deactivations is a necessary first step.”Read more
Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers responded favorably to a proposal put forth by Mayor Jenny Durkan today to raise driver pay and allow drivers to appeal unwarranted deactivations. The Mayor’s plan would engage the driver community in developing a fair pay standard. It would also give drivers who have been terminated from a TNC platform access to a hearing with representation before an appeals panel.
“Drivers should not be fired by an algorithm without recourse,” said Mohamed Aria, who was one of the first Uber drivers in the Seattle market. “I helped Uber build their business, even referring my own customers. But after 6 years of high ratings and maximum customer satisfaction, I was deactivated without reason. It has been a year now since I lost the ability to work and support my family. The Uber staff at the local office have no answers. I applaud the Mayor for putting labor standards for drivers – including accountability and the right to appeal unfair deactivations – back on the city’s agenda.”
Mayor Durkan announced the proposal at a press conference at the Yesler Community Center on Thursday along with a plan to implement a fee on all TNC trips in the city. Revenue from the proposed fee would fund investments in driver support services, and community investments in affordable housing and transit improvements.
"We’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage."
“All Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle: we are here today, seeing progress, because drivers have been organizing and fighting back,” said Peter Kuel, a Lyft driver for over 5 years and steering committee member of the App-Based Drivers Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters 117. “As drivers, we bear all of the expenses of operation and all of the risks on the road, and we’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage.”
According to the Federal Reserve, 58% of gig economy workers cannot afford a $400 emergency expense. This means that thousands of drivers in Seattle are one vehicle repair away from an economic crisis. Seattle’s more than 30,000 Uber and Lyft drivers – many of whom are immigrants and people of color for whom driving is their only source of income – lack minimum wage protections or paid sick leave and other worker benefits.
“Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle provide important transportation services to our community and should earn a living wage,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Drivers are looking forward to participating in a wage study to provide real data to study leaders so that drivers are compensated for their expenses, can afford benefits, and are paid fairly.”
Today, Uber drivers leafleted outside of Uber’s Seattle office, and at more than a dozen other driver gathering spots, to generate calls to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan calling on her office to immediately introduce legislation to raise driver pay and establish labor protections.
The leafleting actions come on the heels of Uber releasing a proposal to impose a $3.80 congestion toll on all Seattle commuters. Drivers say the company’s $3.80 congestion toll plan is nothing more than an attempt to cause delay and avoid regulations that would raise driver pay and fund benefits.
"Instead of focusing on congestion tolls, Uber needs to do right by their drivers first..."
“Instead of focusing on congestion tolls, Uber needs to do right by their drivers first,” said Peter Kuel, an Uber and Lyft driver for more than 5 years and a leadership council member of the App-Based Drivers Association. “Uber and Lyft should do today what every other business in Seattle already does – ensure drivers earn benefits like paid sick days and are never paid less than minimum wage after expenses.”Read more
Uber and Lyft drivers speak out for fair pay and a voice before their caravan embarks for City Hall.
Ride hail drivers took their vehicles on a slow procession through Seattle neighborhoods today to call for better working conditions at Uber and Lyft. Drivers ended their caravan at Seattle City Hall where they delivered their demands to City officials for fair pay, a due process to appeal deactivations, and a voice.
“We are tired of seeing Uber and Lyft siphon off bigger and bigger percentages of what riders pay,” said Fasil Teka, an Uber driver of 7 years. “It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle.”
"It’s time for the City to ensure that drivers have the same rights as all workers in Seattle."
Embarking from the Masjid al-Taqwa mosque in Seattle’s Central District, drivers honked their horns and displayed signs on their vehicles that read, “Share the fare!” and “Uber and Lyft: Listen to your drivers!” The caravan wove through the heart of the city, from the Central District to Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle, neighborhoods with some of the greatest concentrations of ride hail customers.
“We are asking our customers to stand with us in our effort to win fair pay and a voice,” said Lyft driver, Mohamed Sharif. “When drivers are paid a living wage and can stand together to improve driver and passenger safety, our local economy and the entire community benefits.”Read more
Uber and Lyft drivers will caravan together through Seattle neighborhoods to City Hall on Thursday to demand fair pay, a due process to appeal deactivations, and a voice. The Driver Caravan will embark from the Masjid al-Taqwa mosque in Seattle’s Central District on Thursday, May 30 at 11:15 a.m. and weave through Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle.Read more
Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers will hold a Driver Speak Out! event and press conference on Wednesday to highlight increasingly high company take rates, low driver pay, issues around deactivation and other driver concerns as Uber prepares to go public later this week.
At the event, members of the App-Based Drivers Association will discuss a new report that exposes how Uber and Lyft are pocketing an increasingly greater share of rider payment in the Seattle market while drivers are earning less.
The study, Uber/Lyft take more, pay drivers less, is based on analysis of company financial reports, combined with never before released trip-level data collected by local drivers in Seattle.
The Driver Speak Out! will take place at the Sea-Tac Airport Ride Hail Lot (3037 160th St) on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 starting at 11 a.m.
The Seattle event will be held in conjunction with driver protests in other major metropolitan areas around the country in anticipation of Uber’s much-anticipated debut on Wall Street, which is expected to draw a valuation that could top $100 billion. Strikes and other actions are planned in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C.
Uber and Lyft drivers attending a Driver Summit event today sponsored by the App-Based Drivers Association got a first look at a Rideshare Wage Calculator developed in partnership with Teamsters 117. The new tool, which can be accessed at www.drivercalculator.org, deducts common expenses such as gas, vehicle maintenance, and insurance from a driver’s weekly gross earnings to calculate estimated hourly pay. Drivers can compare their pay to the Seattle minimum wage and other types of jobs.
"The Rideshare Wage Calculator gives you a realistic calculation of your pay."
“The Rideshare Wage Calculator gives you a realistic calculation of your pay,” said Hari Lama, who has driven for Uber and Lyft for two years. “It reflects my experience that our pay has been decreasing over time and that the commission rates these companies are taking are too high. We need to be compensated fairly so we can earn a living wage.”
The methodology used to develop the Calculator is based on the work of Larry Mishel, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, who analyzed driver pay in his report Uber and the Labor Market published earlier this year. "It is important that every 'rideshare driver' accurately assess their earnings and be able to compare them to other workers on an apples-to-apples basis. This wage calculator provides just that tool," Mishel said.
Drivers at the meeting brought their concerns over high commission rates, decreasing pay, deactivation, and a lack of protection for workers to Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who committed to work with others on the Council to develop new policies to raise standards in the industry.
“We need to establish policies to ensure that drivers in the for-hire transportation industry enjoy the same rights and protections as other workers in our City – the right to free association, the right to stand together in a union, and protections by Seattle’s sick and safe leave and minimum wage laws,” Councilmember Mosqueda said.
In April, the City Council passed a resolution to study data in the for-hire industry and explore equitable compensation for drivers, improve customer service, and ensure equal market access to all stakeholders. “Uber income is going down and our expenses are going up,” said Abebe Ephrem, who has been driving for Uber and Lyft since they entered the Seattle market in 2012. “The drivers have lives, they have apartments, they have families. The City needs policies so that we can be treated with respect, like human beings.”
Uber is near the top of companies in Washington State whose workers rely on food stamps to feed their families. According to a recent study by JP Morgan/Chase, average monthly earnings among active for-hire drivers in the first quarter of 2018 were 53 percent lower than their peak in the first quarter of 2014.
“The public should not be subsidizing billion dollar companies in a race to the bottom in driver pay,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Seattle needs to follow New York's lead and pass legislation to guarantee that drivers can earn a living wage.”
Drivers Call on City to Take Action to Pass a Driver/Passenger Bill of Rights
Drivers in Seattle’s for-hire industry expressed frustration at today’s ruling by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that partially reverses a lower court’s decision to uphold Seattle’s collective bargaining law.
“Drivers are deeply disappointed with today’s decision, which continues to delay our right to unionization,” said Don Creery, an Uber and Lyft driver and member of the leadership council of the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA). “Anti-trust laws were put in place to protect the little guy from monopolistic practices from large corporations, not to shield a company like Uber – valued at over $70 billion – from negotiating with its workers over fair pay and working conditions.”
"Drivers have already waited for years for fair pay and the right to a union."
Drivers called on the City of Seattle to enact new policies to protect drivers, level the playing field in the industry, and ensure that drivers can earn a living wage. “Drivers have already waited for years for fair pay and the right to a union. Today’s court decision emphasizes the urgent need for the Seattle City Council to step in to improve pay for drivers and pass a Driver/Passenger Bill of Rights,” Creery said.
Because of their disputed status as independent contractors, for-hire drivers who work for Uber and Lyft have not been protected by traditional labor laws or state and local laws, such as Seattle's $15 an hour minimum wage law and Washington State’s new paid sick leave law. In April, the City of Seattle passed a resolution to study the industry and consider regulations that could lead to better pay and other protections for drivers.
In 2014, Uber and Lyft drivers sought assistance from Teamsters Local 117 to improve their pay and working conditions. In May 2014, drivers established ABDA to promote fairness, justice, and transparency in the for-hire industry.
“We are disappointed by the Court’s ruling that continues to block drivers from having a voice,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Like other working people in this country, for-hire drivers should have the same freedom to stand together in their union to improve their pay and working conditions. We will continue to stand with drivers for their right to unionize, earn a family wage, and to raise standards in the industry.”
Drivers in Seattle’s for-hire industry expressed disappointment at yesterday's order by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to temporarily block Seattle’s collective bargaining law.
“We’ve been waiting for two years to be union, to be human beings,” said Mustafe Abdi, an Uber driver and member of the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA). “They say we are partners, we are not partners. We need medical, we need retirement, we need Social Security. We don’t make enough money, we don’t feel safe.”
Seattle for-hire drivers who work for companies like Uber and Lyft are not protected by traditional labor laws, such as Seattle's $15 an hour minimum wage law and its paid sick and safe ordinance.
"We've been waiting for two years to be union, to be human beings."
Uber and Lyft drivers sought assistance from Teamsters Local 117 to improve their pay and working conditions. In 2014, drivers formed ABDA to promote fairness, justice, and transparency in the industry. They helped pass a 2015 law that gave drivers in the City of Seattle the right to unionize.
On Thursday, August 24, Judge Robert Lasnik of the federal District Court of Washington issued an order that lifted a preliminary injunction blocking the law. Yesterday’s ruling by the 9th Circuit temporarily puts the law on hold again.
“We are confident the 9th Circuit will uphold the lower court’s ruling that gives drivers a voice as intended under the law. For-hire drivers should have the same right to self-determination shared by millions of working people across the country. Like other workers, they should be able to stand together in their union to improve their pay and working conditions,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
“We urge Uber to stop disenfranchising its drivers by trying to block the law. For-hire companies like Uber should welcome the law as an opportunity to forge a meaningful partnership with drivers to improve our economy and raise up safety standards for the public.”