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Seattle to force Uber, Lyft to pay drivers minimum wage

caption: FILE: An Uber driver near the San Francisco International Airport.
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FILE: An Uber driver near the San Francisco International Airport.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Seattle says it will force Uber and Lyft to pay drivers at least Seattle’s minimum hourly wage. And the city served notice that other gig economy workers could also receive city protection and support.

"Hopefully if we do a good job of this, it may be a model for other gig workers,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said at a news conference.

Durkan said the plan also calls for a 51 cent tax on every ride. The estimated $52 million they expect will pay for a dispute resolution center for Uber and Lyft drivers, full funding for the Center City Streetcar and affordable housing along transit lines.

Durkan said it’s taken the city years to understand how the skyrocketing growth of the rideshare business is disrupting city life, including the economic impact on drivers and traffic congestion.

"One reason this has taken so long for drivers to get fairness is that the economics of it are fairly complicated," she said.

Asked about Amazon delivery drivers who are also economically insecure and who also create congestion, Durkan said every other kind of gig job will have its own economic complexity. She said that means every kind of gig work will need to be studied before the city could take action.

Update 10:40 a.m., 9/20/2019: Rideshare companies Uber and Lyft say they have made alternative proposals aimed at ensuring minimum earnings standards for drivers. Uber says the city tax will result in high prices for riders and lower tips to drivers. Lyft had earlier told the city, the tax could disproportionately affect lower-income passengers and result in fewer rides for drivers.

Correction 10:40 a.m., 9/20/2019: An editing error misstated the amount of the proposed city tax. It is $.51 per ride.

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