One City Council Considers Mandating a $30 Minimum Wage for Rideshare Drivers

A demonstration in support of drivers in California.

A demonstration in support of drivers in California. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Chicago city council approves marijuana dispensary rules … Oregon Republican lawmakers say Democrats are creating a hostile work environment … Police chief in Georgia ordered officers to spy on city council.

The city council in Los Angeles is considering a measure that would require Uber and Lyft to pay their drivers at least $30 per hour. Under the proposal, roughly 250,000 drivers would earn $15 in minimum hourly wage and $15 to cover expenses like gas and insurance. According to a study done last year by the Economic Policy Institute, driver’s make an average of $9.21 per hour after expenses. The new measure is being proposed by Council President Herb Wesson, who said that ride-share companies "may be creating safer mobility options for residents, but their business model is subverting city policies put in place to protect the most vulnerable members of our community and weakening our social safety net." He is now asking for an independent study of average driver wages before the council votes, a move opposed by Uber. “[The study would be] based on potentially false assumptions that will fundamentally bias its conclusions, and ultimately will lead to higher costs for riders and fewer rides for drivers,” a company spokesperson said. But James Hicks, a member of Rideshare Drivers United, said that the study should proceed. "These companies are able to do basically whatever it is they want. They can make us accept fees of 60 cents per mile, and if we don't accept that ultimatum, then we're basically fired from the platform. There's no regulation, and that needs to change,” he said. A spokesperson for Lyft said that a city-level policy would be difficult for the company to manage, and that “a statewide approach is most appropriate.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law a bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors, which would allow gig workers protections such as a minimum wage. Lyft and Uber are now pushing for a ballot initiative to overturn the new law. Given the uncertainty of that law’s status in a few years, city councilmembers say that Los Angeles must take action now. "The city isn't taking any chances when it comes to protecting our rideshare drivers," said Michael Tonetti, a spokesperson for Wesson. [CBS Los Angeles; LAist; Los Angeles Daily News]

MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES | The Chicago City Council approved new rules for marijuana dispensaries in anticipation of the drug becoming recreationally legal at the start of 2020. The proposal for rules faced opposition from the council’s black caucus over a stipulation that the owners of the city’s 11 medical marijuana dispensaries would get to be the first to sell recreational marijuana; none of the owners of the dispensaries are black. The rules passed anyway, leading some aldermen, to say they plan to find other ways to encourage black-owned dispensaries. “I’m prepared to work with the legislature, the mayor to find a solution ... so equity looks like what equity really should look like. This is probably the biggest wealth generator in this state for years to come. And for African-Americans to not have a serious piece of that is a problem,” said Alderman Jason Ervin, from the city's westside. Chicago is currently facing a budget gap of more than $800 million, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot is hopeful that marijuana tax revenue will help close the hole. “There’s a lot of talk in this chamber about equity. I support that. And, as I’ve indicated multiple times to many of you in the conversations we’ve had, I will be your partner in joining and addressing equity issues where they can be addressed, which is in Springfield. This is a good day for Chicago,” Lightfoot said. [Chicago Sun-Times; Chicago Tribune]

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT | Oregon state Sen. Alan Olsen, a Republican, filed complaints against Democratic lawmakers saying that they have created a hostile work environment for him and other Republicans. Olsen claims that Democrats have made it difficult for Republicans to return to work after they staged a nine-day walk out this summer over a dispute about cap-and-trade legislation. Olsen singled out several lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Sara Gelser, who he claims acted with “disdain” towards him. Gelser had asked earlier in the summer for another Republican, Sen. Brian Boquist, to not be let back in chambers after he made threats about harming state troopers during the walk out. Olsen said that her comments brought “distrust and fear onto the Senate floor.” Gelser said she would take Olsen at his word about the complaint. “People should always feel comfortable to bring forward concerns if they feel they are in an unsafe workplace and I happily complied with the investigation,” Gelser said. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]

SPYING ON CITY COUNCIL | An internal police audit accused at the former police chief of Forest Park, Georgia, of instructing officers to spy on two city council members and go through their trash for three years. The chief, Dwayne Hobbs, was fired in 2018 for alleged racial profiling; the former chief is white and the two city council members are black. The audit found that police had installed task force cameras by the homes of the city councilmembers, which Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells said made her despondent. "My heart is hurting so bad right now and I feel so violated!!!! I found out just now … that for three years Chief Hobbs had someone following me around, had cameras placed on a pole to watch my house, had my trash stolen so that they could go through it … To find out that I'm being treated as a criminal and I've done absolutely nothing is heartbreaking," Akins-Wells posted on Facebook. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now looking into the situation to see if criminal charges are warranted. Hobbs has denied the racial profiling accusations, but couldn’t be reached about the GBI investigation. The Bureau said they are “reviewing information obtained from Forest Park Police Department to determine if there are any criminal elements that warrant a GBI investigation. FPPD approached us." [Clayton News-Daily; WSB Atlanta]

LEGISLATOR RAISE | The board that sets the salaries of state lawmakers in Oklahoma voted to increase legislators’ salaries by 35% next year, from $35,021 to $47,500. The board also raised the stipends that House and Senate leadership receive in addition to their salaries. Oklahoma ranked 20th in the nation in state lawmaker base pay, and legislators had not seen a pay boost for the past two decades. [Oklahoman; Associated Press]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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