El Monte Promises Ride-Share Drivers $30/Hour Minimum Wage

By Bermont, Bradley | Pasadena Star-News, August 11, 2019 | Go to article overview

El Monte Promises Ride-Share Drivers $30/Hour Minimum Wage


Bermont, Bradley, Pasadena Star-News


El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero at times looked like an expectant boy on Christmas Day, leaning forward in his chair on the City Council’s dais, grinning and listening with rapt attention as a driver for Uber pleaded for the politicians’ help at a special meeting last week.

“We’re not asking for the moon,” said Linda Valdiva, who has driven for the ride-hailing company for three years. “We’re just asking for a wage we can live on. We’re asking for a wage that we can over our expenses with because, right now, Uber and Lyft take all the profit when we provide all the capital.”

She was one of nearly 100 drivers who showed up to El Monte City Hall on Wednesday to watch the council unanimously pass a motion that could lead to a $30/hour minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers in the city.

City staffers were directed to write legislation the council could consider in November.

Half of the $30/hour wages would go to drivers while the other half would be for vehicle maintenance. It’s necessary, the drivers said, because after expenses, they’re hardly making minimum wage right now.

Wendy Knight, a researcher for union Service Employees International Local 721, helped facilitate a driver survey with 260 respondents in the Los Angeles area. Three out of four drivers said they made less than $15 per hour before expenses. Half of the drivers said they were enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, such as MediCal, CalFresh and others.

Part of the reason for the low wages are the fees they must pay to Uber and Lyft. On top of that, drivers say they have to pay for health care, insurance and other typical expenses they wouldn’t have to pay if they weren’t independent contractors.

A spokesman for Lyft didn’t believe that Knight’s figures were accurate, saying, “Over the past two years, Lyft drivers have seen their average earnings go on the rise, with drivers in California now earning more than $30 per booked hour.”

But the drivers didn’t buy it.

“Time is up for the ride-share exploitation we are living. Uber and Lyft have profiteered from the race to the bottom,” said Walter Contreras, vice president of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. “That is not innovation. That’s exploitation.”

The push in El Monte is part of a larger fight between drivers and the two ride-hailing giants. …

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