App-based delivery workers, often immigrants and people of color, work in what can seem like an entirely unregulated economy, putting in long hours, riding bikes and e-bikes through blizzards and thunderstorms, and getting paid unreliably and usually very little. The worst of these abuses may come to an end in New York City if the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection establishes a strong wage standard for app-based delivery service workers in the city.
On June 15, dozens of organizations and individuals attended a virtual hearing by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to testify on behalf of the city’s app-based delivery workforce.
Last year, city government ratified a bill tasking the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection with setting a wage standard for platform-based delivery workers on applications like Door Dash, Grub Hub, and UberEATS. Last week, the DCWP (Department of Consumer and Worker Protection) opened their process to the public, asking organizations like Los Deliveristas Unidos, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and several other organizations and individuals to testify on what a fair wage standard should include as well as key issues delivery workers face while on the job.
A move to establish a wage standard in New York would not be unprecedented. In Seattle this year, a floor was set for delivery services and other app-based workers. The “Pay Up” bill requires the apps to pay workers from the moment they accept the order to the moment of drop-off — rather than the time orders are physically in delivery workers’ possession as is the case currently. The bill also implements a model for calculating fares by paying workers $0.38 per minute and $0.64 per mile travelled after they have accepted an order.
Organized delivery workers have been a powerful force in New York, first in passing the legislation and then in testifying at the hearing. The workers argue that a strong citywide wage standard is the best way to ensure that all delivery workers make a decent living. A strong wage standard put an end to the worst of the exploitation of a labor force that is overwhelmingly made up of immigrants and people of color, especially Latinx, South Asian, Black, and East Asian workers.
Testimony at the hearing outlined many factors that make delivery work in New York costly and, in some cases, dangerous for workers. Many workers testified on their difficulties making ends meet with the pay they currently receive from delivery apps. Gustavo Sergio Ajche, leader of Los Deliveristas Unidos, said the average investment he and his colleagues must make to even get into the delivery business is around $3,000. He also highlighted the unique difficulties of working in the summer months, during which he often works all day in the sun but does not receive as many orders as he would in the winter. This results, he said, in a framework where he and other delivery workers wind up losing money while continuing to generate wealth for the corporations who control the platforms.
Ligia Guallpa, a representative from the Worker Justice Project, testified that more than 20 deliveristas have died on the job since 2020 in car crashes. For context, there were 47 total traffic fatalities in New York City in that period, according to data from the city’s Vision Zero database—the delivery workers were more than 40 percent of the total.
Representatives from the city’s own Transportation Department testified that delivery workers are routinely taken advantage of by bike stores that sell them illegal motorcycles under the guise of e-bikes. Unsuspecting deliveristas buy these bikes, according to Ben Smith of the Transportation Department, without realizing until it is too late.
As a result, many delivery workers recounted stories of being harassed by police for the bikes they use, which places undue financial and social stress upon a workforce currently paid very low wages.
Many other workers and organizations outlined the risks delivery workers incur on the road. Many workers have been struck and even killed by vehicles while on the job. More still also have had their bikes stolen while bringing food directly to customers’ homes or have been robbed while making deliveries.
That is why Anthony Capote of the Immigration Research Initiative also testified at the hearing on June 15 to show public support for a wage standard that makes life easier for this essential workforce.
“We simply cannot justify paying essential workers less than virtually any other worker in the state,” Capote said. “By setting a healthy price floor for delivery workers, the city can help ensure thousands of people can afford to work essential jobs and provide for their families.”
Link to the sign-on letter in support of a strong standard for delivery service workers by Immigration Research Initiative and many other allies.
Here is the link to a video recording of the hearing.
Some Selected Moments in the Testimony:
Ben Smith, NYCDOT – 16-minute mark
Ligia Gualpa, Worker Justice Project: 19-minute mark
Hildalyn Colon Hernandez, Los Deliveristas Unidos: 25-minute mark
Gustavo Sergio Ajche, Los Deliveristas Unidos: 28-minute mark
Kazi Fouzia, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM): 1 hour 26-minute mark
Anthony Capote, Immigration Research Initiative: 3 hour 30-minute mark