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City of Seattle Announces Start of Wage Study To Determine Minimum Wage for Uber and Lyft Drivers

Seattle (November 18, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and the City of Seattle announced today the start of a wage study that will collect and analyze data to determine a fair wage floor for Uber and Lyft drivers in the City of Seattle. The study follows Mayor Durkan’s proposal, submitted to City Council last month, mandating that Uber and Lyft drivers be paid at least minimum wage in addition to compensation for benefits and expenses, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020.  

“Seattle is a national leader in ensuring our workers are treated fairly, and in this rapidly changing economy, we need to make sure our hard-fought worker protections are available for our Uber and Lyft drivers. Our Fare Share proposal to guarantee minimum compensation for Uber and Lyft drivers will depend on accurate data,” said Mayor Durkan. “We have selected a team to undertake the complex task of evaluating average hourly work and expenses for drivers for app-based companies with unique business models. With this study and community input, we will be moving forward on fair wages for drivers next spring.”

Economists James Parrott from The New School and Michael Reich of University of California Berkeley will conduct an economic analysis to determine a minimum compensation standard for Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers in the City of Seattle that takes into account TNC driver earnings, work time, and expenses. Parrott & Reich conducted a wage study on behalf of the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission. 

“We are excited to work with the City of Seattle and our survey partners at PRR to implement a scientific study of Seattle area TNC drivers’ earnings, expenses and work hours. We look forward to presenting in coming months a rigorous study that will inform the City of Seattle’s minimum pay standard,” said James Parrott and Michael Reich. 

In the coming weeks, the City will also do survey research of TNC drivers. The survey will be designed and deployed by PRR, a Seattle-based firm that will work in close coordination with Parrott and Reich to collect necessary data. PRR, in coordination with the Department of Neighborhoods, will design a culturally responsive survey to represent the diverse driver community.  

“At PRR, we collect reliable and valid data that enables communities, agencies, and organizations to make well-informed decisions,” said Kate Gunby, Ph.D., Director of Research at PRR. “The TNC drivers’ wages research is an important study with ridesharing vehicles on the rise in Seattle. We look forward to working with the City of Seattle to engage the community, especially people from historically marginalized groups, to ensure these data reflects the diverse experiences of drivers as the City evaluates minimum wage plus benefits and expenses legislation options.” 

“No matter what city they work in, app-based drivers deserve to earn enough to support themselves and their families. New York City’s study performed by Parrott and Reich supported a trip-based standard that now sees the average app driver taking home more than $750 in additional pay each month,” said Acting Commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission Bill Heinzen.  “We’re excited that Seattle is taking up this crucial issue as well and will be performing a similar study of their local market.” 

Data collection and methodology design will begin in the coming weeks. The study is expected to conclude in Spring 2020 and inform subsequent legislation to codify the minimum compensation standards. The City will also undertake a community engagement process to solicit input from the driver community to inform the Mayor’s legislation.