Uber, Lyft Minimum Wage in NYC Puts S.F. On Call

Rideshare drivers hail New York City’s decision to guarantee a minimum wage, which could set a standard for San Francisco.

SF Examiner File Photo

Rideshare drivers make far less than minimum wage. Uber drivers average only an $11.77 hourly wage, according to an Economic Policy Institute study this year, and Lyft drivers likely pull similar rate that is well below San Francisco’s minimum wage of $15 an hour. Now, New York City is applying some surge pricing to their pay.

Tuesday morning, the The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) voted to ensure New York rideshare drivers a minimum wage, setting a precedent that might follow to San Francisco, where both Uber and Lyft have their headquarters. New York City’s new minimum wage for rideshare drivers is now $17.22 after expenses (or $26.51 before expenses).

“I’m proud that my bill will make New York City the first major U.S. city to establish a minimum pay standard and living wage requirement for Uber and Lyft drivers,” New York City Councilperson Brad Lander said in a release. “I’m thrilled the TLC is voting to finalize the rules today, which will protect drivers, level the playing field and support accessibility.”

But could this happen here in San Francisco? The San Francisco Board of Supervisors does love to pass other cities’ copycat legislation, as we saw in July when the supes took up the tech company cafeteria ban after Mountain View passed a similar legislation. And the supervisors have shown a historical desire to tax Uber and Lyft, two of the city’s wealthiest corporations.

Both rideshare companies are planning stock market IPO’s next year, which will infuse them with cash. (Neither is currently profitable, but both have received billions in venture capital.) While the two have rolled out gobs of new features and improvements in the past few years, driver pay has been sharply decreasing.

“They just need to pay drivers more,” says Harry Campbell, better known as the Rideshare Guy, in an interview with Curbed. “Uber and Lyft are trying to do everything they can do around the edges right now. They’re investing in customer support and try to improve pickups and drop-offs for UberPOOL. But pay and flexibility are the main things that drivers care about, and everything else isn’t that important.”

San Francisco Uber and Lyft drivers may get their minimum wage, as well as benefits and paid time off, without any additional laws passing. After a California Supreme Court ruling in May, drivers may end up being classified as employees and not as independent contractors. Whether that ruling applies to Uber and Lyft is still being litigated in the courts.

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