Duluth Uber driver has mixed emotions about ride-share wage bill veto

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 9:46 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) -- Duluth resident Jeff Bushnell, has been a full-time ride-share driver for more than 20 years.

“Before Uber and Lyft came to Duluth six years ago, I owned a little taxi business here in Duluth for many years,” said Bushnell. “I’ve been doing that for a long time.”

Bushnell loves his job. He said every day leads to meeting new people, seeing new places, and having an adventure.

And like most people, he was happy to hear about getting a potential raise, which was included in a bill proposed at the Minnesota State Capitol. It would have mandated companies raise driver compensation from $1.08 per mile, to $1.45 per mile.

But that proposal had companies like Uber and Lyft threatening to stop serving parts of Minnesota if Governor Walz signed it into law.

Bushnell’s feelings changed when he heard that.

“As much as I would like a raise like anybody else, it’s still very busy, it’s still a very good living, and I wasn’t too concerned about the raise as long as they stayed operating in Duluth,” said Bushnell.

Bushnell said he has mixed emotions about the situation because ride-share companies claim higher rates would have reduced their customer base.

“I guarantee you, after 20 some years of doing this, that would not have happened,” said Bushnell.

On average Bushnell estimates more than 100 people are logging into Uber to book a ride on a daily basis in Duluth.

He says that’s not even accounting for the surrounding areas.

“Uber is still a reliable mode of transportation, and I don’t think that would have changed much with the bill,” said Bushnell.

However, Bushnell’s story isn’t like everyone’s.

Some legislators said the veto of the bill is harmful, especially for East African, BIPOC, and communities of colors who work in ride-share.

“This was signal to some communities that we were okay with leaving some people behind,” said Duluth Representative, Alicia Kozlowski.

Kozlowski said there needs to be protection for drivers as soon as possible.

“One of the drivers came and was actually wearing the bloody shirt that he had worn the night he was violently attacked while doing a drive,” said Kozlowski.

Legislators and drivers now planning to work side by side to find a solution that works for everyone.

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