Gov. Tim Walz's administration has assembled a group of rideshare drivers, members of the public and representatives from Uber and Lyft to advise him on how to address wage and safety concerns raised by workers.

Walz vetoed legislation in May that would have boosted driver pay and provided job protections, hours after Uber announced plans to pull out of all Minnesota markets except premium-priced services in the metro area if the bill was signed into law.

The committee is tasked with recommending policy changes by January, one month before the 2024 legislative session begins.

"Everybody who has expressed an opinion and interest in this area does share the same ultimate goal, which is to provide drivers with fair treatment, fair compensation, but also to make sure this type of service is available in the state of Minnesota," said Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach, co-chair of the committee.

Uber and Lyft drivers made an impassioned pitch in the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, lining the hallways outside of the governor's office and rallying outside the House and Senate chambers. Treated as independent contractors, rideshare drivers are not entitled to benefits or minimum wages.

The DFL-led Legislature eventually agreed to a bill that would mandate drivers be paid $1.45 a mile and 34 cents per minute and index minimum pay rates to inflation. It would also give drivers a right to appeal deactivation on a company's rideshare platform.

But emails in the weeks leading up to that veto showed Walz's administration was being heavily lobbied to reject the proposal, according to records obtained through a data practices request.

In a letter, Dakota County officials said the bill could jeopardize a service they provide in partnership with Lyft to provide discounted rates to people living with disabilities. Nonprofits and business groups said the bill could contribute to transportation deserts in the state, and hospitality groups said it could hurt the state's tourism industry. Uber and Lyft said ride prices would increase by at least 50% if the bill became law.

Elder advocates wrote to the governor noting many aging Minnesotans rely on rideshare services to see family and get to medical appointments. In a May 22 letter, Kristine Sundberg, executive director of Elder Voice Family Advocates, expressed concerns that rideshare companies would eliminate services in rural areas entirely. "Driving becomes more challenging and navigating public transportation can often feel impossible for seniors, making this issue extremely important," she wrote.

Eid Ali, president of the Minnesota Uber and Lyft Drivers Association, is a member of the governor's new committee and hopes it can recommend a path forward on both wage standards and protections for workers.

"The drivers were struggling for quite some time," Ali said. "They were frustrated with the system and they are expecting to get something positive out of this task force conversation."

One representative from Uber and another from Lyft will sit on the task force, as well a labor member, a representative for cities and a disabilities advocate. Blissenbach said they will look to other states for inspiration, including Washington, which was the first to set minimum pay for rideshare drivers last year.

But they also want to analyze Minnesota-specific rideshare data, Blissenbach added.

"We want to bring all those viewpoints together and collect data so the committee can look at this from a holistic viewpoint, and hopefully come to some recommendations."