Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: New York City food delivery workers’ rights
Overview: The New York City Council has passed a set of bills that will improve pay and working conditions for third-party food delivery workers.
Location: New York City, NY
Population: 8.2 million
Food policy category: Food services, social and economic equity
Program goals: To improve working conditions and quality of life for food delivery workers.
How it works: The package of bills includes the following:
- Delivery workers will be allowed to use restaurant bathrooms as long as they are picking up an order. Fines of up to $100 will be issued to any restaurant that is caught denying a delivery worker access to a restroom.
- Minimum per-trip payments to ensure sufficient pay for delivery workers will be established. The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will study working conditions of food delivery workers and establish the minimum per-trip payments by January 1, 2023.
- Apps that solicit tips will have to disclose to customers and workers exactly how that money will be used. The customer will be informed of how much money will go to the delivery worker, when, and in what form (cash or other), and the workers will be notified about how much money they will be receiving in tips, as well as any changes by the customer that may have been made to the tip amount after delivery and the reason given (if any).
- Payments and pay schedules will be regulated. Food delivery companies will be prohibited from charging workers any fees to receive their wages, and payments must be made to delivery workers at least once per week. Workers must also be offered at least one option for receiving payment that does not require a bank account.
- Delivery companies must provide workers with insulated bags once the worker has completed at least six deliveries with the company. Currently, delivery workers often have to pay out of pocket for insulated bags, which cost up to $60.
- Workers will be allowed to restrict their delivery areas, including setting a maximum distance they will travel and whether they will travel over bridges or through tunnels.
Progress to date: The bills were introduced as a result of activism from Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group of mostly-immigrant delivery workers in New York City, during the pandemic in 2020. The City Council introduced the bills in the spring of 2021 and they passed on September 23, 2021.
Why it is important: A 2021 report from Los Deliveristas Unidos details the poor working conditions food delivery workers face every day, including long hours, low pay, working outdoors in inclement weather, the physical risks of bicycling in the city, and being the target of violent crimes.
- Including tips, food delivery workers make an average of $12.21 per hour, while the minimum wage in New York City is $15 per hour. However, most delivery services pay their workers per order rather than by the hour. Some couriers work for 12 to 14 hours per day in order to deliver enough orders to earn a living.
- About half of food delivery workers surveyed reported having been in an accident on the job, and because they lack health insurance, they must pay out of pocket for any necessary medical care.
- More than 50 percent of workers reported being the victims of bike theft, and 30 percent of those robbed were also physically assaulted.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when restaurants were closed except for take-out and delivery, food delivery workers helped to keep them in business. While most of the city stayed at home, quarantined and socially distanced from outsiders, food delivery workers visited multiple restaurants and individual residences every day to help people receive food and restaurants to remain profitable. Often, they were offered personal protective equipment (PPE) only if they picked it up from an office location or if shipping costs were deducted from their paychecks.
Food delivery workers in New York City are disproportionately immigrants and people of color, and Los Deliveristas Unidos claims that because of their limited proficiency in English, food delivery companies take advantage of them by making them sign legal agreements that are difficult to understand. Furthermore, because of their immigrant status, many workers are afraid to speak up for their rights.
The NYC bills are an important step forward in protecting the rights of food delivery workers.
Program/Policy initiated: The set of bills passed on September 23, 2021.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: This package of bills in support of food delivery workers’ rights is the first of its kind.
Evaluation: Evaluation of these bills has not yet been conducted.
- The Dangerous Life of Food Delivery Drivers (BBC News)
- Delivery Workers are Struggling to Survive the Pandemic (The Counter)
- The Delivery Workers Who Risk Their Health to Bring You Food (The New York Times)
- ‘My Turn to Get Robbed’: Delivery Workers Are Targets in the Pandemic (The New York Times)
- Agreements Between Third-Party Food Delivery Services and Food Service Establishments and the Provision of Toilet Facility Access to Food Delivery Workers. (The New York City Council)
- Disclosure of Gratuity Policies for Food Delivery Workers. (The New York City Council)
- Essential but Unprotected: App-based Food Couriers in New York City (Los Deliveristas Unidos)
- Establishing General Provisions Related to Working Conditions for Third-Party Service Workers and Requiring that Third-Party Food Delivery Services Permit Delivery Workers to Set Limitations on Distance and Route for Deliveries. (The New York City Council)
- Establishing Minimum Per Trip Payments to Third-Party Food Delivery Service and Third-Party Courier Service Workers. (The New York City Council)
- Establishing Standards for Payment of Food Delivery Workers. (The New York City Council)
- New York City Council Votes In Favor Of Food Delivery Worker Protections (CBS New York)
- New York City Food Delivery Workers Just Won the Right to Bathroom Access on the Job After Months of Organizing and Protests (Business Insider)
- New York City Moves to Improve Life for Food Delivery Workers (CBS News)
- New York City Passes Bills Offering Protections to Food Delivery Workers (CNBC)
- New York Passes Sweeping Bills to Improve Conditions for Delivery Workers (The New York Times)
- NYC Food Delivery Workers Band to Demand Better Treatment. Will New York Listen to Los Deliveristas Unidos? (The City)
- NYC Set to Pass Food Delivery App Laws Securing Workers Minimum Pay, Bathrooms and More (The City)
- Report: NYC Food Delivery Workers Face Low Pay, High Risks (Gothamist)
- Requiring Third-Party Food Delivery Services and Third-Party Courier Services to Provide Food Delivery Workers with Insulated Food Delivery Bags, and Authorizing the Commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to Deny, Suspend, Revoke (The New York City Council)
- What You Need to Know About NYC’s New Delivery-App Laws (Grub Street)