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Seattle City Council Passes Bill That Secures Hazard Pay for Food Delivery App Drivers

Gig workers in Seattle delivering for apps like Grubhub and Doordash will get an extra $2.50 per order during the COVID-19 pandemic

A sign on a restaurant window reads “We deliver with Grubhub”
Delivery drivers for third-party apps in Seattle will get extra money per order per a new law.

On Monday, the Seattle city council voted to pass legislation that would help gig workers receive extra money during the COVID-19 pandemic. In what’s essentially hazard pay, drivers for food app delivery services such as Postmates, Instacart, and Grubhub will get an extra $2.50 per order.

The bill requires companies to give their employees this extra pay until the end of the city’s civil emergency. Council member Tammy Morales also added an amendment to the bill that would prohibit grocery delivery companies like Instacart from passing the new cost onto customers, although that particular provision doesn’t appear to apply to restaurant delivery. Mayor Jenny Durkan says she intends to sign the bill into law this week.

When the bill was originally drafted, the extra pay was intended to be $5, not $2.50, and would have included ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. However, the scope has since narrowed. Council member Lisa Herbold, who co-sponsored the bill, said the legislation was adjusted after negotiations with third-party app companies and the labor organization Working Washington. And ride hailing apps were excluded because Durkan is currently working with those companies on more permanent pay minimums.

The new rules also come just a couple of weeks after the city council passed a separate bill mandating sick pay for independent contractors. With that new law, those who deliver food for apps in Seattle would be eligible to accrue one sick day for every 30 days worked and the payment would be based on their average daily income. Gig workers can also use up to three days of paid sick time before being required to produce a doctor’s note or other proof of care.

But food delivery companies are still putting up resistance to both the mandated sick pay and the hazard pay, despite the negotiated reduction from $5 to $2.50. “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,” a rep for Doordash said in a statement.

Council member Andrew J. Lewis, who co-sponsored the hazard pay legislation (billed as “premium pay”) with Herbold, pushed back on that reasoning.

“The powerful testimony of app-based food delivery workers showed their needs were not being met, both in pay and in their ability to protect not only themselves, but their families and customers,” said Lewis in a statement. “Premium pay will ensure these gig workers receive minimum compensation, deserved hazard pay, and additional resources to clean their delivery vehicles.”

UPDATED, June 16, 2020, 12:38 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that an amendment to the bill prohibiting extra costs from being passed along to customers was specific to grocery delivery.