Virginia lawmaker Lee Carter (D-Manassas) is perhaps one of the most famous state legislators in the country. He’s also one of the approximately two million Americans who work part-time as a rideshare driver.
Delegate Carter — an avowed socialist who defeated Virginia’s House Majority Whip in 2017 — has been profiled in both the New York Times and The Washington Post. He’s built an impressive online following in his two-year career as a public official, with more than 35,000 Twitter followers on his account (which is about 5,000 more than the Virginia Democratic Party’s verified account).
However, as a Virginia lawmaker, Carter makes just $17,640/year, (just $1,470/month). To compare, the median income in Manassas, Virginia, which Carter represents, is $77,551/year ($6,462/month), according to Census records, meaning Carter’s annual salary as the city’s lawmaker in Richmond is roughly 22% of his district’s median income. When breaking down Carter’s legislative salary on a monthly basis and comparing it with the average monthly rent in Manassas of $1,494/month, Carter would have to spend 101.6% of his monthly income as a state legislator on an apartment, assuming he’s paying that much in rent.
Naturally, this means Carter has a second job as a rideshare driver, along with around two million other Americans. Tech site CNet estimates there are around 1.4 million Lyft drivers in the U.S., along with around 750,000 Uber drivers. However, while the companies themselves are growing, the drivers are gradually making less and less. As Grit Post reported in September, Uber and Lyft drivers have seen their monthly incomes drop by an average of 53% over a four-year period, going from $1,469/month in 2013 to just $783/month in 2017.
Delegate Carter tweeted that he would be participating in the upcoming nationwide rideshare driver strike, and called on his followers to not cross the picket line while drivers were striking.
“Because of the low pay at the General Assembly, I’ve been driving for Lyft on the side to make ends meet,” Carter tweeted. “I’m striking on Wednesday with thousands of my fellow rideshare drivers. Don’t cross the picket line.”
Because of the low pay at the General Assembly, I've been driving for Lyft on the side to make ends meet.
I'm striking on Wednesday with thousands of my fellow rideshare drivers. Don't cross the picket line.
Don't do it.
Don't cross the picket line.
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) May 6, 2019
The upcoming strike is taking place in seven major U.S. cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. — though many drivers like Carter are striking in solidarity across the country. The strike is taking place at the same time Uber executives are seeking $9 billion for their Initial Public Offering (IPO), scheduled for May 10.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.