Above Photo: Choongky / Shutterstock.
This holiday weekend, as many New Yorkers once again hunker down at home during the latest surge of Covid cases, the city’s intense reliance on delivery apps for essential goods is highlighting advocates’ call for better protections for the delivery workers who have toiled without a safety net.
A slate of city laws for delivery workers is set to kick in the new year and will roll out in stages, commencing in January with more oversight of the delivery apps and increased transparency for the more than 65,000 delivery workers in New York City.
Starting next month, delivery apps must be licensed by the city to operate in the five boroughs. By January 24th, licensed apps that take customer orders directly will be required to notify delivery workers how much each customer tips for each delivery, and the total pay and tips for the previous day. The city will now require that restaurants provide the delivery workers with better access to restrooms.
More reforms will come in April, when delivery workers will then be able to control how far they are willing to travel, the details of routes and addresses before accepting a delivery order, and the right to be paid weekly without a processing fee. The delivery apps must also provide a free insulated bag for food deliveries once the worker has made six deliveries.
The reforms also allow delivery workers to avoid bridges and tunnels on their routes, a recognition of the violence that some have faced in the course of their work. The city said it will add additional lighting and NYPD cameras at Willis Avenue Bridge bike paths, more safety resources at bridge crossings into Manhattan, an e-bike-etching program to deter theft, and more helmet giveaways for delivery workers.
Los Deliveristas Unidos, the subset of the Worker’s Justice Project that organized delivery workers to demand better protections, will help the city mount an extensive outreach campaign to educate workers about the new policies, said Hildalyn Colón Hernández, Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships for Los Deliveristas Unidos.
“Laws are great. But if the workers don’t know what those rights are, and what happens if it doesn’t work, it’s like having nothing,” Hernández said.
Peter Hatch, the commissioner for the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, said New York City is among the first cities in the country to offer better protections for delivery workers after the pandemic fueled “an explosive growth of the industry.”
“We are essentially building a floor of worker protections that didn’t exist in the unregulated industry. And we think they are robust,” Hatch said.
Enforcement will fall on the apps, who will need to follow the new policies in order to be licensed or eventually face fines. Hatch said the workers themselves will have legal recourse as well: “We would work with the city’s law department, and potentially…file a case in state court” if investigations reveal patterns of violation, Hatch said. “In addition, individual workers who have these protections, they also have private rights of action and they can go to court as well.”
While Grubhub previously told WNYC/Gothamist that they support the package of reforms, the company joined DoorDash and UberEats in a lawsuit in September to fight a permanent fee cap on delivery services.
Perhaps the biggest change will come next year, when the city will set a new minimum pay rate for delivery workers who currently make a median hourly wage of $7.94, or $12.21 with tips included, according to a study released in September. The rate will be determined by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection in consultation with workers and other stakeholders.
Hernández of Los Deliveristas Unidos said she hoped the New York movement spurs national reform for delivery worker protections.
“It’s just the beginning. And we need to start from somewhere,” she said. “We are setting minimum standards in an industry that just emerged.”
“It’s like 2021 and I have to go through the legislation process to vote for somebody to use the restroom,” she added.
As for customers who use the delivery apps before the reforms set in next year, Hernández has a request – a quick friendly chat with the delivery worker to ensure the tip was actually paid to them will help ensure transparency, she said.
“What they’re asking us for is for respect, to be treated fairly,” she said. “Just take five seconds and say, ‘hey, thank you for the food. Did you get the tip? Can you check that you make sure you got the tip?’”