De Blasio must deliver for delivery workers

The New York City Council passed an unprecedented slate of legislation that will protect delivery workers from unsafe working conditions. Bill de Blasio should sign it immediately.

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Jake Capriotti

Food delivery services have become more essential in recent years. Mayor de Blasio must sign legislation to give them greater protections. (Staff Photo by Jake Capriotti)

By Kevin Kurian, Opinion Editor

Hurricane Ida revealed the shallowness of America’s praise for frontline workers. As the streets of New York flooded, some decided that a pizza or a burrito was more important than the health and safety of delivery workers. One worker spent an hour biking through the rain because of perverse incentives set by companies that would increase delivery pay during natural disasters — but was only paid $5. A clip of another worker pushing their bike through a flood as high as their waist went viral on Twitter.

In response, the New York City Council passed a sweeping slate of legislation that will implement much-needed worker protections for delivery workers on Thursday.

The bills would require restaurant bathroom access for delivery workers, establish minimum compensation for workers by 2023, introduce more transparency for consumers regarding how much of their tip is received by workers, allow workers to set distance limits for deliveries, and mandate that delivery companies provide workers with insulated bags. It is one of the most ambitious worker protection legislative packages in the country, and Mayor de Blasio should sign it into law immediately.

Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations conducted a study that illustrated the grueling conditions that delivery workers face on a daily basis. They found that 42% of workers in the study had been underpaid on several occasions, contributing to New York City delivery workers earning an average hourly net pay of $12.21. On average, city delivery workers earn less than the city poverty wage of $12.86 an hour, let alone the minimum wage of $15 an hour. These abysmal wages illustrate the necessity of the pay minimums that the legislation would set. When deciding minimum payments, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection must ensure increases in hourly wages for workers such that workers can earn living wages. New York’s next mayor should exert pressure on the DCWP to accomplish these goals.

Distance limits and bathroom access will improve the physical conditions of the job. Delivery workers suffer from long hours and six-day work weeks, as the Gothamist reported. Members of Los Deliveristas Unidos, an organizing group behind much of the advocacy for this legislation, report genuine health risks ranging from physical threats by customers to harsh weather conditions. This legislation is the least that the government can do to foster a safer working environment for these workers.

The laws would also force companies to provide insulated bags to workers that keep food deliveries at an appropriate temperature, instead of making delivery workers purchase their own. In a profession where workers depend on tips to earn a livable wage, this is a small but impactful policy that can meaningfully improve compensation.

The only means to improve conditions for delivery workers is through legislation. Delivery companies have been openly antagonistic to a New York City law that capped delivery fees at 15%, going as far as to sue the city. Uber and DoorDash also spent $200 million on a ballot measure in California to exempt gig economy workers from traditional labor laws. Under no circumstances should these companies be trusted to self-regulate. To protect some of the most important workers in the city, this legislative package must become law as soon as possible.

The organizing of Los Deliveristas Unidos and the needs of 65,000 delivery workers in the city must not be ignored. No matter how much money and energy these corporations exert in lobbying in the coming weeks, Mayor de Blasio should stand fast and sign these bills into law.

Contact Kevin Kurian at [email protected]