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Delivery Workers Cheer Restroom Access and Tip Transparency Alongside AOC and Chuck Schumer

Gabriel Lopez, who has been making a living as a food delivery worker for over 18 months, braved the elements in Midtown, Jan. 21, 2022. Hiram Alejandro Durán/ THE CITY

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This article was originally published by The CITY on Jan. 23 

Starting Sept. 24, New York City’s app-based food delivery workers are entitled to increased clarity on their daily earnings and tips, and the right to use most restaurant bathrooms, as new laws begin their rollout.

The rules emerged from a slate of landmark bills approved by the City Council last September, sparked by THE CITY’s reporting and the demands of Los Deliveristas Unidos, a labor group representing thousands of delivery workers.

The Deliveristas celebrated the new protections Sunday afternoon with a rally in Times Square, flanked by allies including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-The Bronx/Queens) and Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has advocated for federal funds to create rest stops for the workers and other supports.

Also joining were city Comptroller Brad Lander and Councilmembers Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) and Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), among the lawmakers who introduced the Council bills.

The rally drew dozens of Deliveristas, many of whom hail from Indigenous communities from Mexico and Guatemala. Workers from Bangladesh and Mali also participated.

“We’re going to see big, big changes with these laws,” upper Manhattan delivery worker Manny Ramírez, 34, told THE CITY on Friday. “The discrepancy between what the client thinks we get paid and what the apps actually pay was immense — but now there is more awareness, and we felt like we’d won with that alone.”

“We feel like winners,” said Ernesta Galvez, 40, who works for the Relay app and is one of the few women among the Deliveristas. “It’s emotional to think about how far we’ve come.”

Ocasio-Cortez said in a phone interview on Sunday that the local gains for delivery workers send important signals nationally.

“What we’re seeing with the Deliveristas and the working class in New York, particularly tech workers, is such a strong counterpoint to what we’ve seen in California,” she said, noting that state’s ban on gig workers being recognized as full time employees.

Congressional Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx and Queens) speaks at a Times Square rally for delivery workers, Jan. 23, 2022. Claudia Irizarry Aponte/THE CITY

“The actual organizing of these workers can be and is effective in not just fighting back, but in actually expanding the quality of life for people, particularly those who make a living through all of these apps,” she added. “What I’m really excited to explore with them is how we can use this as a launching point for growth in workers rights and greater dignity for workers, both across the state and across the country.”

Bathroom Pass

Among the new rules debuting this week: delivery workers are entitled to use the customer bathroom at restaurants where they’re picking up an order. Restaurant managers’ refusal to allow restroom access became a flashpoint for the Deliveristas two years ago at the onset of the pandemic.

Ramírez, who delivers for Doordash and Relay, said that the new bathroom law will allow him to return to his old delivery route in Lower Manhattan, where he can find more customers — with more money — than uptown.

He said he was forced to move his route north during the pandemic because he has a relative in the neighborhood and could relieve himself in his apartment.

“Finding a place to use the bathroom or even rest was impossible in Lower Manhattan last year and in 2020, until now, thanks to these laws,” he said.

The delivery platforms, which also include UberEats and Grubhub, will be required to submit daily earning reports to each worker through the app, and must also provide transparency around customer tips.

The companies are now subject to licensing requirements to continue operating in New York City.

The city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is tasked with enforcing the laws. So far, the agency has issued licenses to UberEats, Postmates and Drizzly — all of which belong to tech behemoth Uber, according to a spokesperson for the company.

Relay has not yet filed for the license, spokesperson Matt Miller said Friday. But he added the platform already guarantees that “100% of gratuities go to riders no matter what” and pays couriers weekly.

Miller said Relay would roll out language in its contracts with restaurants on Monday reflecting the bathroom requirements. “The City Council regulations continue to work strongly in the favor of any restaurant or rider working with Relay,” he added.

A worker delivers food in Midtown, Nov. 18, 2021. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“NYC’s delivery workers work hard every day to support restaurants and residents across the city,” a spokesperson for Grubhub said in a statement. “Access to restrooms and a living wage are simply the right things to do.”A spokesperson for Doordash stated: “We are actively engaged with the Dasher community and eager to work with policymakers in New York City on ways we can best address their unique needs.”

Chuck Bucks

Two other highly anticipated bills — one requiring platforms to pay for workers’ insulated bags, and another setting minimum pay standards similar to those enjoyed by Uber and Lyft drivers — will roll out in April and early next year, respectively.

The majority of delivery workers in New York earn far less than the city’s $15 minimum wage — just $7.87 before tips and $12 after on average, according to a September study by Workers Justice Project and the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Lander, who as Council member introduced the bill that will set pay standards, said his office will “be talking to DCWP and looking at how they can continue to implement and strengthen and improve their enforcement of these new Deliverista laws as well as just cause and fair workweek, and other critical worker protection laws that they enforce.”

Since the Council approved the new laws, the deliveristas and DCWP officials have been gathering for regular meetings to recommend how the agency can enforce the regulations, according to Hildalyn Colón Hernández, policy director for Workers Justice Project, which represents the Deliveristas.

Josh Wood, a Lower Manhattan UberEats delivery worker since 2016 and a member of Los Deliveristas Unidos since 2020, said he met privately with several DCWP officials in October for nearly two hours.

He said they went “above and beyond to make sure that the workers have a perspective in the implementation of this law.”

Ramírez said he too met with the agency twice, with each meeting lasting about two hours.

In a statement on Friday, DCWP Commissioner Peter Hatch praised the delivery workers’ “tireless” advocacy and push for increased protections.

“By licensing food delivery apps, we can now bring much needed oversight and regulation to this expanding industry, which will greatly benefit not only these essential workers, but the restaurants and consumers that use the apps as well,” he added.

More than 2,000 viewers tuned into a know-your-rights Facebook Live seminar about the new laws hosted by Los Deliveristas Unidos on Jan. 10.

In the months ahead, the group will focus on increasing outreach and awareness.

Schumer told THE CITY in a phone interview that he will be working “closely” with local agencies and the delivery workers to ensure the laws’ rollout — and pointed to his success in securing federal funding.

“The city and I work well together, I got $6 billion last year, and there’s still quite a bit around there,” for projects like charging stations for delivery workers, the senate majority leader said. “So whenever the agencies aren’t working, I’ll be there. I’ll watch them like a hawk. I’ll be their bird dog.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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