¡Si se pudo! City Council Passes Legislation Package Granting Food Delivery Couriers Basic Workers Rights

Dozens cheered the passage of the bills. Photographs by Fernanda Martinez.

By Fernanda Martinez and Joaquin Contreras

On Thursday, September 23, dozens of food delivery workers cheered outside New York’s City Hall as the legislation package granting them basic worker’s rights was passed by the City Council.

Los Deliveristas Unidos is a collective, estimated to include 80,000 app delivery workers throughout the city, who have been raising awareness of the hardships of their job and advocating for improved working conditions. In April 2021, they found allies in several City Council members and elected officials, who introduced a bill package targeting six main problem areas.

Six demands, six bills.

The six bills approved by the City Council will allow couriers to set maximum distances for orders; require apps to establish minimum per-trip payments and at least one non-bank payment option; provide workers with insulated delivery bags after six deliveries; make the gratuity process more transparent and pay workers at least once a week; and mandate that restaurants provide workers with bathroom access when picking up orders, which has previously been a source of contention.

In fact, there was a heated discussion about bathroom access right here in the neighborhood, at a recent Community Board 7 transportation committee meeting, which we covered. One board member said, “You can’t force a restaurateur to use their bathroom if they’re absolutely opposed to it. The whole thing is asinine.” A resolution to “encourage” restaurants to open their restroom doors was tabled by that committee. Now, by law, restaurants will be charged a $50 fine the first time they deny delivery workers bathroom access, and $100 every time thereafter. A process for workers to file complaints has been established.

The Bill Package was passed unanimously, 43-0.

Gustavo Ajche, leader of Los Deliveristas Unidos.

On Thursday afternoon, Gustavo Ajche, leader of Los Deliveristas Unidos, gathered delivery workers together to announce the news. “We want to tell you some great and super important news,” he said in Spanish.

“Los Deliveristas have shown that they have power. Every rally, every march was worth it,” added Ligia Guallpa, head of the Workers Justice Project. “This city is recognizing [delivery couriers] as essential, and honoring [them] not with words; with actions,” she concluded.

Their words were met with cheers and a chorus of “¡Si se pudo!” which loosely translates to “Yes, we did it!”

“¡Si se pudo!” loosely translates to “Yes, we did it!”

Some of the major app companies were supportive of the legislation. “These bills are common sense steps to support the delivery workers who work hard every day for New York’s restaurants and residents. Ensuring they receive a living wage and have access to restrooms isn’t just a good idea — it’s the right thing to do,” Grant Klinzman, a Grubhub spokesperson told THE CITY. Grubhub owns Seamless.

“We recognize the unique challenges facing delivery workers in New York City and share the goal of identifying policies that will help Dashers and workers like them,” DoorDash spokesperson Campbell Millum told Bloomberg. “We will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the City Council, to identify ways to support all delivery workers in New York City without unintended consequences.”

It should also be noted that, according to THE CITY, “This month, Grubhub, Uber and DoorDash sued the city over an extension of fee caps on restaurants the Council approved in August. San Francisco-based DoorDash sued the city last week over a new law that requires delivery companies to share more customer data with restaurants.”

Los Deliveristas Unidos.

Hired as “independent contractors” by food delivery apps, deliveristas are unable to access labor protections, such as the guaranteed New York City minimum wage, workers compensation after injuries, and health and safety regulations in the workplace, to name a few.

The lack of these measures makes a perilous job even harder to accomplish. Currently, delivery apps operate based according to an intricate set of rules that can be hard for delivery workers to follow, especially if they want to excel on the job.

For example, since there are now no distance limits, couriers often travel at breakneck speeds to make a delivery on time and avoid risking their gratuity. Gratuities in the trade are essential, because, after expenses, a courier’s hourly pay comes to approximately $7.87, according to a study by Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Moreover, “pausing” a delivery shift, for any reason, might impact the courier’s in-app rating, their tips, and even their ability to remain on the app. Because of this, deliveristas sometimes refuse to pause their shift even after they have been involved in traffic accidents. And, of course, the lack of bathrooms access has been a serious problem.

The introduction of this bill package will allow delivery workers to have more control over their delivery range, as well as ensure fairer conditions and compensation for their labor. The focus now will be on making sure that these new laws are implemented.

“This is just the beginning of something bigger,” affirmed Ligia.


NEWS | 15 comments | permalink
    1. Wayne Z. says:

      Always remember to tip your delivery person generously and WITH CASH. You simply cannot trust a middlemen to give them their full due.

    2. Sol Ushen says:

      Solution: Consumers should NEVER patronize apps like Ubereats, Grubhub, DoorDash, or Seamless. These apps are criminally intrusive and parasitic.

      Similarly, workers should NEVER provide their labor to companies like these with established well-documented patterns of abusive behavior.

      As for restrooms, during the pandemic, some establishments have understandably closed restrooms to patrons, and presumably to ‘deliveristas’ as well.

      Owners should be able to charge for access, with rates at their own discretion.

      Under no circumstances should the City Council force consumers to open their homes to allow ‘deliveristas’ to use their restrooms, because you know that is what is coming next.

      • Peter says:

        Sounds like everyone just wasted their time on these laws, instead of just following your solutions. No app-no problem, right?

        You think what’s coming next is the City Council mandating that people open their private property to strangers? That should be an easy-peasy constitutional amendment.

    3. nycityny says:

      California passed some protections for app drivers and delivery workers last year. But the big companies simply used the initiative process in that state, combined with lots of cash and advertising, and convinced the voters to rescind the protections. Thank goodness New York does not have such a process.

      Now if Cuomo were still governor he would likely have passed a state law invalidating these protections (to spite the mayor) and then initiated those of his own in his name (as with the plastic bag law). Thankfully he won’t be doing that this time.

      This new law is the bare minimum these people deserve.

    4. Otis says:

      I wish the City Council would also crack down on delivery guys who ride their bicycles on the sidewalk, go thru red lights and ride on the street against traffic.

      • m.pipik says:

        Did you not read the article?? The reasons that have to do that are mentioned in the last few paragraphs.

        The only way to stop this is to make the deliveristas employees and pay them by the hour not the number of deliveries.

        Yeah, right

        • Paul says:

          The notion that delivery workers are “independent contractors” is a joke that’s only made possible by rich people lobbying state and federal agencies and legislatures.

          It’s the root cause of these problems, but can only be attacked at the state and/or federal level. Accordingly the City is limited to measures like these.

          People need to dwell on the reality; people behind tech ventures hiring the likes of Eugene Scalia to lobby to turn the concept of “independent contractor” on its head — so they can get richer still by not paying overtime, minimum wages, workers’ comp, etc.

          • Boris says:

            Delivery workers are absolutely meet the criteria that designate them independent contractors

            • Paul says:

              You clearly missed the point, Boris.

              Before the lobbyists got to the IRS and DOL, the notion that unskilled laborers who perform the essential tasks of a business could be considered as independent contractors would have been laughed out of every relevant court and regulatory agency involved in the employment relationship.

              Independent contractors historically perform tasks peripheral to a business (like fixing the HVAC) and have enough skills to both determine for themselves how their work gets done and to be in a position to negotiate the price.

              What we’re seeing here is exploitation of unskilled and powerless workers who do the very task the business exists for.

      • Tego says:

        I agree on that one. But also low pay is a contributing factor for these actions. Speed is of the essence to survive so the “employers” and public who want the lowest cost possible are contributing to their own danger.

    5. CMA says:

      Historically it’s always those on the bottom of the economic workplace chain that are most taken advantage of, taking physical risks, and denied basic necessities. Recall the struggles of miners and farmworkers, and many others. This is now the digital version.Great to hear about Los Deliveristas Unidos.Si,se puede!

    6. Esther Kaftol says:

      Always Tip the delivery person in cash!
      Do not trust the charged tip to get to them!