New York passes sweeping bills to improve conditions for delivery workers

Under the legislation, delivery workers would also be able to set parameters on the trips they take without fear of retribution. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The New York City Council overwhelmingly approved a groundbreaking package of legislation Thursday (Sept 23) that will set minimum pay and improve working conditions for couriers employed by app-based food delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.

The bills, which have the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, are the latest and most broad example of the city's continuing effort to regulate the multibillion-dollar industry. While other cities have taken steps to restrict the food delivery apps, no city has gone as far as New York, which is home to the largest and most competitive food delivery market in the country.

The legislation prevents the food delivery apps and courier services from charging workers fees to receive their pay; makes the apps disclose their gratuity policies; prohibits the apps from charging delivery workers for insulated food bags, which can cost up to US$50 (S$67.42); and requires restaurant owners to make bathrooms available to delivery workers.

Under the legislation, delivery workers would also be able to set parameters on the trips they take without fear of retribution. Workers - who have been targeted by robbers intent on stealing their money or their e-bikes - would be able to determine the maximum distance they want to travel from a restaurant or specify that they are not willing to go over bridges to make a delivery, for example.

Working conditions for the roughly 80,000 delivery workers in New York came into renewed focus three weeks ago, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the city and scenes of food delivery workers traversing flooded streets to deliver meals stirred outrage.

The use of food delivery apps soared as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the dining rooms of restaurants around the city. But for the mostly immigrant laborers tasked with delivering the meals, working conditions were as difficult as ever.

The legislation calls for the city to conduct a study to determine how much delivery workers should be paid. Currently, the workers' pay is determined by whether they are working during peak hours, the amount of time in between trips, and the neighborhood where food is being picked up and delivered.

Companies that violated the new rules would face fines and could have their licenses to operate in the city suspended.

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