On Thursday, New York City lawmakers passed a package of six bills that will establish minimum working conditions for app-based food delivery workers—making it the first major U.S. city to regulate the food delivery app industry. Integral to the passage of the legislation was the work of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a NYC-based grassroots collective made up of immigrant food delivery workers. The Deliveristas began organizing last winter when the covid-19 pandemic led many restaurants to limit or pause indoor dining, which also typically involved closing their bathrooms to the public.
The legislative package will require restaurants to allow food delivery app couriers access to bathrooms, establish minimum payments per trip, ensure delivery people get their full tips, and allow couriers to set limits on their routes. Food delivery apps will be required to pay their couriers once a week and will be prohibited from charging their workers fees in order to receive their payment. Additionally, the bills will require that the apps offer a wider range of payment options that don’t require workers have a bank account.
Currently, the median hourly wage for New York City delivery workers (excluding tips) is $7.94, while the minimum wage in New York state is actually $15. The beginning of the covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 drastically increased the city’s reliance on app-based food delivery workers and brought into sharp focus how exploitative these app’s payment models are. A study from Cornell University found that three-quarters of current food delivery drivers joined the industry after losing work during the pandemic. Although food delivery apps including GrubHub, DoorDash, and UberEats previously sued New York City after a prior attempt by the city to regulate the industry, the legislation passed on Thursday reportedly has the support of Grubhub and Doordash.
The necessity of securing protections for delivery workers was brought into acute focus once again when Hurricane Ida hit the city in August, and numerous photos and videos of delivery workers riding bikes through the deluge of deadly flooding began to circulate on social media. Many couriers couldn’t afford to stop working even during the extreme weather, during which they made horrifyingly low wages—one member of Los Deliveristas Unidos said he only earned $5 for an hour-long trip he took during the storm.
The six-bill package is expected to be signed into law by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as his office has already voiced their wholehearted support for the new regulations. The policymakers and organizers who worked to make this legislation a reality are hopeful that the model set in NYC will be adopted by other U.S. cities.
“This opens the doors of possibilities for workers,” Ligia Guallpa, the executive director of the Workers Justice Project, told THE CITY about the Thursday vote. “One thing is real full representation [as employees] — that is the first step to start addressing all of the issues and regulating the entire industry, and making sure workers have a seat at the table, that they have the power to decide what goes in and doesn’t go in that contract.”