The city passed an ordinance requiring additional wages for essential gig workers in June.

By Jelisa Castrodale
September 22, 2020
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At the end of June, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that required food delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates to offer "premium pay" to all of their Seattle-based workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill stipulates that the companies must pay their drivers an extra $2.50 for every completed delivery, due in part to the additional health risks that they face while delivering everyone else's dinner. 

"Food delivery network companies are essential businesses operating in Seattle during the COVID-19 emergency and rely on business models that hire gig workers as independent contractors, thereby creating barriers for gig workers to access employee protections established by local, state, and federal law, and making gig workers highly vulnerable to economic insecurity and health or safety risks," the ordinance reads

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"Gig workers making deliveries for food delivery network companies are supporting community efforts to engage in physical distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while simultaneously exposing themselves to a higher risk of infection. Gig workers working during the COVID-19 emergency merit additional compensation because they are performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship that can cause extreme physical discomfort and distress due to the significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus." 

According to Grocery Dive, the city council originally wanted drivers to be compensated with an extra $5 per trip, but after discussions with labor organizations and service providers, they agreed to cut it to $2.50. (And, unsurprisingly, Instacart called the council's efforts "careless" and threatened to leave the city if the ordinance passed. It did, and they didn't.) 

Some of those drivers have already seen some financial benefits from that legislation. Last week, the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) reported that DoorDash had paid out $111,435.35 in restitution to workers who weren't properly compensated under the Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance, while Postmates has had to pay $250,515.17. 

Eater Seattle reports that the payments were made as part of an agreement between the OLS and the companies, after they were reported for failing to comply with the extra $2.50-per-trip requirement. DoorDash made payments to 2,998 workers, while Postmates settled up with 2,975 people. (We did the math: that comes out to around $37 for each person paid by DoorDash, and $84 for those who work for Postmates.) 

“After receiving calls from gig workers, OLS contacted the companies, informing them that if the companies resolved issues regarding premium pay and paid workers back pay and interest by a certain date, OLS would forego a formal investigation,” an OLS spokesperson told the outlet. “Both companies complied, conducted an internal audit, which identified various problems, and promptly paid the workers back pay and interest. We received proof of compliance from both hiring entities." 

Although $2.50 per trip might be slightly less hazard pay than Seattle's gig workers were hoping for, it's better than what they'd make a couple of states further south. Earlier this summer, DoorDash emailed its drivers in San Francisco to let them know that they would receive an extra $0.78 per day—per day, not per trip—for their work during the pandemic.