NYC Will Pass Landmark Laws to Protect Delivery Workers

Members of the grassroots organization Los Deliveristas Unidos

Today’s vote is an expected victory for delivery workers.
Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Today, City Council is expected to pass a slate of bills meant to improve working conditions for New York City’s delivery workers. The package — a direct response to the activism of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group of mostly immigrant delivery workers — would ensure delivery drivers bathroom access and minimum pay per trip, among other long-overdue protections.

“We’ve seen them face everything from COVID-19 exposure to waist-deep flood waters to violent attacks, all in a day’s work,” Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who’s worked closely with Los Deliveristas, told Grub via email. “The package of bills passing today marks a critical first step toward securing rights, protections, and justice for our delivery workers.”

It’s a big deal: The NYC news website The City, which has been meticulously covering the working conditions of delivery drivers during the pandemic, points out that this legislation has support not only from Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, but also from at least one of the major delivery platforms. A spokesperson for Grubhub told the website that the company “supports the proposals … that would provide a number of new protections.”

What proposals, exactly? Here’s a breakdown of what could change:

Delivery workers will (finally) be allowed to use the bathroom
During the pandemic, the right to pee became a hot-button issue. Most other bathroom options had evaporated, and yet many restaurants wouldn’t let delivery workers use their bathrooms (even though, one might note, those same delivery workers were a lifeline for restaurants, which for months were prohibited from serving on the premises at all). New York City still won’t have an actual public-bathroom infrastructure, but a bill from Councilmember Rivera would require restaurants to allow delivery workers to use their restrooms as long as they’re picking up an order. Restaurants caught denying workers access would face fines — $50 for the first offense and $100 for every violation after.

There would be minimum per-trip payments
On average, delivery workers earn $7.87 an hour before tips, or about half of the city’s minimum wage, according to a recent report from the Workers’ Justice Project and the Worker Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. With tips, that goes up to $12.21 — still well below the minimum. A bill introduced by Councilmember Brad Lander is designed to change that by establishing minimum per-trip payments. Those minimums would be independent of any tips.

Apps would have to tell customers where their tips go
Any app that solicits tips would be required to disclose to customers exactly where that money goes. It would have to lay out how much of each tip goes to the delivery worker, in what form it gets to the delivery worker (is it cash?), and whether the tip is paid out immediately.

The apps would also be required to extend the same kind of transparency to delivery workers, who would be immediately notified if they’d been tipped, how much they’d been tipped, whether a customer had made changes to an existing tip, and, if a reason was provided, why. They’d also be required to inform workers how much they’d earned — in both compensation and gratuities — the day before.

Payment — and payment schedule — would be more regulated
This one is relatively straightforward: Delivery platforms wouldn’t be allowed to charge workers any fees to receive wages and tips, would be required to pay workers at least once a week, and would need to offer at least one payment option that doesn’t require a bank account.

Delivery companies would have to provide workers with insulated bags
Those ubiquitous thermal delivery bags? They’re an unofficial job requirement, workers say, and can run them up to $60 out of pocket. This
bill would require food-delivery apps to make the insulated bags available to any courier who’d completed at least six deliveries for the company and would prohibit companies from charging any money for the bags.

Workers could limit their personal delivery zones
A proposal from Councilmember Justin Brannan would allow delivery workers to set limits on how far they’re willing to travel for a delivery. It would also let workers specify whether or not they’ll accept trips over bridges and tunnels — known danger zones for e-bike couriers — without penalty.

This, according to the City, is “one of the thornier items” in the bunch, and in a statement, DoorDash expressed concerns about the bill, suggesting that allowing workers to opt out of certain areas could lead to discrimination. (For what it’s worth, the spokesperson did say the company recognized the “unique challenges” facing NYC delivery workers and would work with city officials.)

For Sergio Ajche, a Guatemalan food-delivery worker and organizer with Los Deliveristas, these bills are only the beginning. “These six bills will help workers, but they’re not enough,” he told the website. “Only time, each passing day will inform us what else we should change and demand. Every day more delivery workers are getting together and the movement grows. We’re making progress.”

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