New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a set of groundbreaking laws on Thursday that will set minimum wages and improve working conditions for couriers employed by app-based food delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. .
The bills, which have the backing of Mayor Bill de Blasio, are the latest and most general example of the city’s continued efforts to regulate the multi-million dollar industry. While other cities have taken steps to restrict food delivery apps, no city has gone as far as New York City, which is home to the nation’s largest and most competitive food delivery market.
Legislation prevents food delivery apps and courier services from charging workers a fee to receive their wages; requires apps to disclose their tip policies; Prohibits apps from charging delivery people for insulated food bags, which can cost up to $ 50; and obliges restaurateurs to provide bathrooms for delivery people.
Under the legislation, delivery people would also be able to set parameters for the trips they make without fear of reprisal. Workers – who have been targeted by thieves with the intention of stealing their money or e-bikes – would be able to determine the maximum distance they want to travel from a restaurant or make it clear that they are unwilling to crossing bridges to make a delivery, for example.
âThese workers sacrificed their own safety during the pandemic to bring food into our homes, but in some cases they have been denied access to restrooms in restaurants and charged fees through third-party apps,â he said. Corey Johnson, city council chairman, said in a statement. . “I am proud of New York City and this Council for standing up for these workers, and I urge other major cities to protect this industry.”
Working conditions for some 80,000 delivery people in New York City were given a facelift three weeks ago, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the city, and scenes of food delivery people crossing flooded streets to deliver meals aroused indignation.
The use of food delivery apps has skyrocketed as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down restaurant dining rooms in the city. But for the mostly immigrant workers responsible for delivering meals, working conditions were more difficult than ever.
A app-based survey of 500 food delivery people by the Worker Institute of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University found that 42 percent of workers had been underpaid or not paid at all. Almost half said they had accidents while delivering food, and 75 percent of this group said they used their own money to pay for medical care. Fifty-four percent said they were stolen during deliveries and 30 percent said they were assaulted during thefts.
JosÃ© Ramirez, who came to New York City from Puebla, Mexico, worked as a delivery man in Manhattan for four years. He said he made about $ 8 an hour before tips, which required him to work more than 10 hours a day most days to earn enough money to support himself.
Mr. Ramirez, member of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group that has fought for years for the protection of delivery people, said restaurants have denied him access to the bathroom so often that he has had to call his friends on his shift to use their restroom.
“People sometimes come to me after I have made their delivery and tell me they’re sorry they can’t tip me,” Ramirez said. âI’m glad I helped, but I’m not getting paid. I have to pay for my bike, my delivery backpack and my cell phone, so we need a decent minimum wage.
The legislation appears to be the first of its kind in the country.
As demand for deliveries has skyrocketed, workers at food delivery start-ups across the country have organized their efforts to demand better wages and conditions. Some cities in California and Washington state have adopted temporary measures to provide a risk premium for delivery and other essential workers due to the pandemic.
States like California and Massachusetts have also been engaged in protracted legal battles over what rights and protections should be afforded to concert workers.
California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22 last year, a victory for companies like Uber and DoorDash that allowed them to continue to treat drivers like independent contractors. The measure exempted companies from a state labor law that would have required them to employ drivers and pay for their health care and other benefits. As a concession to workers’ rights defenders, the initiative offered a minimum wage and limited benefits to drivers.
But last month, after a lawsuit brought by a group of drivers and the Service Employees International Union, a California judge ruled the proposal unconstitutional and unworkable. The companies have announced that they will appeal.
Chicago recently sued food delivery apps, accusing them of engaging in deceptive practices. San Francisco, meanwhile, voted to put a permanent 15% cap on the fees that apps charge restaurants, but London Mayor Breed did not sign the law, saying it “exceeds what is necessary for the public good “.
New York City is currently facing two lawsuits from the industry’s largest food delivery companies seeking to eliminate rules governing how much apps can charge restaurants and what information they must disclose. .
Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Federal District Court earlier this month, arguing that a cap of 15% on fees for online orders and 5% per order for other fees such as marketing was unconstitutional and would ultimately lead to higher prices. for consumers and less profit for restaurants.
Restaurant owners say companies sometimes charge them a fee of up to 30% per order, which affects their already slim profit margins. But because apps came to dominate the food delivery market, owners said they had no choice but to list their restaurants there.
DoorDash filed a separate complaint last week, challenging another law passed by city council that would require apps to share customer data such as their names, addresses, emails and phone numbers with restaurants.
While the new set of bills may also be subject to legal challenges, Grubhub officials have said they support the legislation.
“These bills are common sense measures to support delivery people who work hard every day for restaurants and New York residents,” Grant Klinzman, spokesperson for Grubhub, said in a statement. âMaking sure they get a living wage and have access to a toilet isn’t just a good idea, it’s the right thing to do.
Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan councilor who sponsored the toilet legislation, said she had heard stories of workers having to wait hours to find a toilet they could use and other workers who had been given asked to pay to use the restroom in a restaurant.
âThese are workers who have been denied their rights for a long time. They come from historically marginalized and low income areas of our city, âsaid Ms. Rivera. âIt took a national and global pandemic and waist-deep flood waters to bring attention to their plight. “
The legislation requires the city to conduct a study to determine how much delivery people should be paid. Currently, workers’ wages are determined by whether they work during peak hours, the time between trips and the neighborhood where food is picked up and delivered.
Delivery apps that break the new rules would face fines and could have their business licenses suspended in the city.
But even under the rules, workers would still be classified as independent contractors who are not eligible for workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits.
Hildalyn Colon, policy director at Los Deliveristas Unidos, said the need to pass the bills became more urgent as the food delivery industry became a source of income for more workers, many of them immigrants who start working only a few weeks after arriving in the country.
Manny Ramirez, 34, and his wife both work as delivery people. He said that there has long been a pressing need to improve working conditions.
“These bills are already affecting us and changing our lives, as these issues have surfaced,” Ramirez said in Spanish. “This is just the beginning of things to come.”
The report was provided by Nicole hong, Coral Murphy Marcos and Ashley wong.