The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to require app companies such as Uber, DoorDash and others to offer their Seattle workers paid sick days as the use of home delivery grows during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new requirement, sponsored by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, would last until the city’s declared coronavirus emergency ends. Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to sign the bill, a spokeswoman said.
Mosqueda said the legislation was necessary not only for workers but for the “community at large” because drivers and delivery people have “countless contacts with individuals throughout our community.”
Supporters say workers without sick days can face pressure to keep working while ill, even during a pandemic, to avoid a loss of income.
“Don’t call me essential; pay me like I’m essential,” Seattle DoorDash driver Jason Reeves told council members before the vote Monday. “Give us sick leave if we’re truly essential, so we’re not spreading infection.”
Council members are also considering a bill to offer drivers and delivery people $5 per trip in “premium pay” during the pandemic, but that proposal is undergoing more deliberations.
App companies oppose the extra pay, saying it would hurt drivers and delivery people by hampering demand because the cost would be passed on to customers.
In response to the sick-days proposal, companies pointed to their own steps like distributing masks and other equipment to workers.
Several of the platforms, including DoorDash, Uber and others, have offered limited payments to drivers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or meet certain other conditions. The company Instacart has a sick-pay policy, though workers have reported problems accessing those benefits.
“We have significant concerns about the Seattle City Council considering emergency measures that single out one sector without meaningful input from the public or groups that may be affected,” Uber spokesman Caleb Weaver said in an emailed statement.
Uber is reviewing the latest version of the bill passed Monday, Weaver said.
Under the new sick-pay bill, drivers and delivery people working in Seattle would receive some sick days upfront before accruing one sick day for every 30 days worked. Pay during sick days would be based on a driver’s daily average in their top-earning month since October.
As Seattle and other cities have expanded rights for workers classified as independent contractors, workers have split with some worried about being classified as employees. During a public comment session Monday, several drivers for Uber, DoorDash and other companies urged council members to support the bill.
“A lot of people in this industry have dark skin and one of the biggest issues we face is that we’re in need of making a better living,” said James Thomas, who works for delivery and ride-hailing apps, “but right now we’re doing essential work without any of the protections other workers are afforded. We are taking a risk to go out and work.”
“Having no legal standards in an industry that is made up of so many workers of color reinforces racial discrimination and disparity in pay,” Thomas said.