The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to permanently give most gig workers paid sick leave and paid safe time, the latest in the expansion of labor rights for app-based workers, and the first statute of its kind nationally.
The vote broadens and cements the pandemic-era policy that previously allowed food delivery workers to accrue paid sick and safe time, or PSST, until April 30, six months after the end of the city’s emergency order.
Maria Hernandez, who has worked for DoorDash and Uber Eats since 2019, said when she was treated for breast cancer, she was not given adequate time to heal after surgery because she was not given paid leave.
“Because I don’t have much savings and I have many bills to pay monthly, after one-third of the recommended time to not work from the doctors, I had to return to making deliveries,” Hernandez wrote in a statement that she delivered to the council in Spanish, before an interpreter read it in English.
“This new permanent law will help create more than a free day for anyone who is sick. It will give us tranquillity and some peace in our hearts,” she added.
The policy is the latest in a string of protections added for on-demand gig workers since the pandemic. It follows the unanimous approval of a minimum pay and mileage bill last spring, part of the council’s “Pay Up” suite of labor protections.
“The pandemic has shown us that we all benefit when people are able to take a day off when they’re sick or their loved one is sick. And we have to let people stay home to stay healthy,” at-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who sponsored the bill, said in an interview Monday.
The policy extends protections for food delivery workers covered during the pandemic that would have expired May 1. On Jan. 13, 2024, the legislation will expand to cover all workers included in the minimum pay ordinance, including all “on-demand” gig workers, like those on DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart and similar apps.
Workers will accrue one day of PSST for every 30 days “with at least one work-related stop in Seattle (e.g., shopping at a store in Seattle, making a delivery in Seattle),” according to a memo from council central staff. Beginning in 2024, accrual rates will be determined by a worker’s average daily earnings, excluding tips.
Danielle Alvarado, executive director of Working Washington, a workers advocacy group, said that Tuesday’s vote was an important step in the council’s work to protect workers who don’t have a traditional employer.
“We had, during the pandemic, so many workers who were really on the front lines doing work that was critical to everybody else being able to stay safe without having some of that basic protection,” Alvarado said. “So this is us realizing that, as we go forward, there is another way that allows workers to keep themselves safe and healthy, which keeps everybody else healthy too.”
Workers for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft are already covered under a Washington state law, which allowed workers to accrue one hour of paid sick time per 40 hours worked, beginning this year.
Neither the leave nor wage policies include gig workers who set their own rates on marketplace apps like TaskRabbit. Council members said they’re committed to researching ways to protect marketplace workers at a later date.
In the future, Alvarado says Working Washington will work with the City Council to address protections for workers from being wrongfully deactivated from gig apps and expanding wage and PSST protections to marketplace workers.
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