The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Monday to require meal- and grocery-delivery app companies like DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart to provide their drivers with at least $2.50 “premium pay” per order during the coronavirus crisis.
Pending Mayor Jenny Durkan’s signature, the legislation will last until the end of the city’s declared coronavirus emergency. Durkan intends to sign the measure, a spokeswoman said.
Like supermarket checkers and postal carriers, gig-economy drivers have provided an essential service during the pandemic while chancing exposure to the virus. Some drivers have been making as little as $3 per trip, they’ve said.
The labor-backed advocacy organization Working Washington pushed Monday’s legislation, arguing it would provide drivers with coronavirus hazard pay while compensating them for costs related to personal protective equipment and vehicle cleaning.
Because drivers for app companies are classified as independent contractors, they go without minimum-wage protections and other rights that apply to workers classified as employees.
When Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis introduced the legislation last month, they proposed it require $5 premium pay per order, and they proposed it also cover ride-hail app companies like Uber and Lyft.
Some app companies objected and warned they would pass the added costs along to customers. Instacart mounted a public-relations campaign against the legislation, asking customers to lobby City Hall.
The council voted 8-1 to replace the initial proposal with a new version Monday, reducing the premium-pay amount to $2.50 per order and excluding the ride-hail app companies. Councilmember Kshama Sawant voted against the changes.
Herbold said the premium-pay change was negotiated between Working Washington and the app companies and was meant to strike a balance. Working Washington called Monday’s legislation the first in the nation to provide delivery-app drivers with hazard pay.
“Gig workers are … on the frontlines of this crisis providing for our community, including delivering meals and groceries to families and seniors who have to self-isolate,” Herbold said in a statement.
She said the ride-hail app companies were excluded because Durkan has been working with those companies and with labor organizers on legislation that would establish permanent pay minimums.
“The mayor intends to sign (Monday’s) bill and is hopeful that it will augment the work we hope to undertake later this summer to establish a fair standard” for ride-hail app company drivers, Durkan spokeswoman Chelsea Kellogg said in a statement.
In a statement, a DoorDash executive said the company remains opposed to the premium-pay legislation, despite the reduction from $5 to $2.50 per order.
“It is precisely because we share the goal of supporting workers that we urge the mayor not to sign this unnecessary and harmful legislation, which will reduce earning opportunities and hurt restaurants at the worst possible time, said Toney Anaya, head of government relations.
The council added a clause, sponsored by Councilmember Tammy Morales, prohibiting grocery-delivery app companies from passing the premium-pay costs along to customers.
Two weeks ago, City Hall adopted legislation requiring app companies to offer their workers paid sick days during the coronavirus emergency. Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards has been tasked with enforcing both requirements.