Explaining Southern California's economy

Can Uber lower fares and have its drivers make more money?

Ride hailing services like Uber have changed ground transportation for both passengers and drivers. As Uber rapidly grows, it becomes more difficult for its drivers to keep up with the hustle.

David Ramos/Getty Images

For the first time, Uber will guarantee drivers an hourly wage of $20 an hour in Los Angeles, or $26 during peak times.

To keep demand high during the slower winter months, the ridesharing service, Uber, has cut fares by 20 percent in 48 markets – including Los Angeles and Orange County.

The company says a trip from West Hollywood to downtown will now be around nine dollars, instead of $11.

When Uber lowered prices in the past to muscle out competitors like Lyft and taxi services, passengers loved it but drivers have complained it puts an unfair squeeze on them, complaining their already low take went even lower.

Uber stresses the fact cutting fares actually helps drivers because they get more business. In a blog post, the company points to data from Chicago where fares dropped 23 percent last month compared to December 2013 while drivers' income increased by 12 percent.

But drivers have been skeptical whether volume can make up for the price drop. The company's claim that New York city drivers earn a median of $90,766 a year has been refuted. Slate talked to New York UberX driver Jesus Garay in October:

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LA residents need to make $33 an hour to afford the average apartment

What has your hunt for a rental in Los Angeles been like?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Finding affordable apartments is especially tough in Los Angeles, where 52 percent of people are renters, according to a new study.

You need to earn at least $33 an hour — $68,640 a year — to be able to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership, which advocates for affordable housing. 

That's more than double the level of the highest minimum wage being proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, which he argued would make it easier for workers to afford to live here. “If we pass this, this will allow more people to live their American Dream here in L.A.," Garcetti proclaimed when he announced his plan to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. 

The $33 an hour figure is based on the average L.A. County apartment rental price of $1,716 a month, from USC's 2014 Casden Multifamily Forecast. An apartment is considered affordable when you spend no more than 30 percent of your paycheck on rent.

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LA and the $15 minimum wage: It all started accidentally at a Washington airport

David Rolf

Ben Bergman/KPCC

David Rolf, International Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, stands in his downtown Seattle office. Rolf led the campaign to bring a $15 minimum wage to Seatac, Washington in 2013.

As Los Angeles mulls a law that would raise the minimum wage above the current California minimum of $9 an hour, it's the latest city to jump on a trend that started as the by-product of a failed labor negotiation in the state of Washington.

The first city to enact a $15-per-hour minimum wage was SeaTac, Wash., — a tiny airport town outside Seattle. "SeaTac will be viewed someday as the vanguard, as the place where the fight started," the lead organizer of SeaTac's $15 campaign, David Rolf, told supporters in November 2013 after a ballot measure there barely passed.

Rolf never set out to raise SeaTac’s minimum wage, much less start a national movement. Speaking from a sparse corner office in downtown Seattle at the Service Employees International Union 775, which he founded in 2002, Rolf told KPCC that his original goal in 2010 was to unionize workers at SeaTac airport.

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LA and Long Beach Ports: Truckers win employee status, quickly vote to join Teamsters

Mike Acosta

Brian Watt/KPCC

Mike Acosta has driven a truck for Shippers Transport Express for four years.

Days after becoming official employees of their company, rather than independent contractors, port truck drivers for Shippers Transport Express elected to be represented by the Teamsters Union. 

88 out of 111  drivers for the Carson-based logistics company signed union authorization cards, giving Teamsters Local 848 the authority to negotiate their first labor contract.  The election is a major milestone in a years-long campaign by the Teamsters to organize short-haul truckers at U.S. ports. 

That campaign has been waged recently on the picket lines, with labor actions against eight drayage firms at the Ports of LA and Long Beach.  But it has also been fought in the courts and labor enforcement hearings, with lawsuits and complaints challenging the classification of the truckers as "independent contractors."

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Los Angeles loses 2024 Olympics bid to Boston

OPENING CEREMONY 1984 OLYMPICS

Steve Powell/Getty Images

An overview of the opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Coliseum during the lighting of the Olympic flame of the 1984 Summer Olympics, July 28, 1984.

Shaun White, right, congratulates gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland after the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Tuesday.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Shaun White, right, congratulates gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland after the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Olympics Day 14 - Athletics

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Bryshon Nellum of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Men's 4 x 400m Relay Final on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 10, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Winter Olympics - Opening Ceremony

Getty Images/Getty Images

Team United States lead by Mark Grimmette enters the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at BC Place on February 12, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.


The third time won't be the charm for Los Angeles, at least not in 2024.

The United States Olympic Committee has chosen Boston to represent the U.S. among the finalists bidding for rights to host the 2024 Olympics, beating out Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

L.A., which hosted the games in 1984 and 1932, wanted to join London as the only other city to host the Summer Olympics three times.

The USOC said its decision came after "a spirited discussion and more than one round of voting."

Finally, Boston received the unanimous endorsement of the USOC’s board of directors, who met at Denver International Airport.

“We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid,” said USOC Chairman Larry Probst in a written statement. “We’re grateful to the leaders in each of the four cities for their partnership and interest in hosting the most exciting sports competition on earth. The deliberative and collaborative process that we put in place for selecting a city has resulted in a strong U.S. bid that can truly serve the athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic movements.”

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