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NYC passes bills to protect rights of app delivery workers

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New York City passed a series of bills Thursday protecting the rights of food service delivery workers for companies such as Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. Worker advocates hope these new laws could spark reforms in other cities and draw further attention to the debate around the poor conditions and wages delivery workers contend with.

Gig service workers have been actively raising their voices for years about the indignities they experience on the job, such as making as little as $2 a delivery, traveling excessive distances, and being refused restroom access at the restaurants where they pick up customer orders. They also contend with navigating dangerous traffic, having their bikes stolen, and in extreme cases, physical assault. But the rising use of food delivery apps during the pandemic has resulted in a push for better conditions from the industry.

Organizations such as Workers Justice and Los Deliveristas Unidos were formed by the workers to call for change, raising awareness by holding rallies and on social media with hashtags like #NYCDeliveristas and #EssentialButUnprotected. They also assembled a report to spotlight the experiences of 65,000 NYC app-based food workers.

Members of Los Deliveristas gathered at City Hall for Thursday’s vote on the bills, taking to Twitter and Facebook to express their excitement. They also offered free bike repair services and homemade tacos for fellow couriers who turned up to offer support. “We hope this sends a message to the other delivery workers in New York and elsewhere: If you work from the heart, you’ll get results,” said one member in an interview with The City.

Change may not be far behind for gig workers in other parts of the country, either. In August, a California judge struck down controversial Proposition 22, which denied delivery workers employee protections by classifying them as independent contractors. In the meantime, West Coast-based advocacy group Gig Workers Rising recently showed up on the doorstep of Doordash CEO Tony Xu demanding fair pay.

“These bills are common-sense steps to support the delivery workers who work hard every day for New York’s restaurants and residents,” Grubhub spokesperson Grant Klinzman told Yahoo Finance. “Ensuring they receive a living wage and have access to restrooms isn’t just a good idea — it’s the right thing to do.” Yahoo Finance has reached out to Doordash and Uber Eats for comment as well.

“The core business model of app-based food delivery companies is to deny and lock their workers out of employment protections and benefits,” attorney Brian Chen told Yahoo Finance. Chen works for the National Employment Law Project, a longstanding nonprofit organization that advocates for workers’ rights. “And as food delivery skyrocketed during the pandemic, it was these workers — in difficult, dangerous, underpaying jobs — who kept the city running. These bills are an important victory for New York City’s deliveristas, and hopefully will be a model for workers and legislators across the country.”

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