NYC food delivery workers struggle to get paid through apps – NBC New York

New Yorkers place more than 100 million food delivery orders each year through a very simple process: press a few buttons on an app and it’s in their hands in about 30 minutes.

For delivery people, the process is anything but simple. And it’s become even more complex since the city instituted a new wage formula designed to guarantee workers pay at least $18 an hour. Some of the biggest app platforms, which opposed the change, responded by limiting work hours, making it harder for customers to tip, and changing how wages are calculated from week to week.

This leaves workers like Greiber Pineda scrambling to cope with opaque changes.

Pineda initially made so much money with Uber Eats under the new wage system that when a snowstorm hit New York in January, he was motivated to work 11 and a half hours straight, transporting 37 meals on his moped “through the cold, the snow, everything.” A few days later, the app changed its pay system, sending him about $200 instead of the $300 he expected.

“When we got paid, we were like, ‘What happened here?’” Pineda, of Brooklyn, said in Spanish.

Frustrated, Pineda now spends more time on other activities. On a recent weekday morning, he sold coffee and arepas to fellow delivery men from Venezuela and Colombia outside a Chick-fil-A across from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena. Nearby, two Guinean workers changed the oil on a scooter while others from Latin America, China and Turkmenistan collected orders from apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash. The city estimates that, like Pineda, 39 percent of delivery workers speak English “less than well.”

A few months ago, none of these workers earned an hourly wage. Like most food delivery drivers in the United States, they logged into apps whenever they wanted and made money by taking on individual delivery jobs. Some jobs made financial sense. Others may not even cover the cost of gas, but many workers have said “yes” as often as possible to get priority access to premium orders or other perks on gamified apps.

This is no longer the case in New York, which on December 4 became the first major city to establish a minimum wage for food delivery workers using apps. Seattle followed in January with a similar law that extends to almost all app-based work.

Before the change, New York City surveyed its roughly 122,000 delivery workers, revealing they made an average of $14 an hour. Half of that came from tips and about $2 went to equipment and maintenance, mostly for e-bikes and mopeds.

Exposed to deadly traffic and violent attacks, they did dangerous work, but did not even earn the city’s minimum wage, which increased from $15 to $16 this year.

“It’s one of the ways, one of the few ways for an immigrant to get out, at least in this city, that’s expensive,” Pineda said.

While some workers say they earn less thanks to the new rules, unions and app companies say average wages have increased. But apps continue to reduce costs and have the benefit of viewing their employees’ data while they figure out how to make it happen.

“Delivery companies continue to undermine or attempt to undermine the minimum wage victory by being less transparent,” said Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Workers Justice Project.

None of the major app companies operating in New York responded to a request for detailed salary statistics. They championed reducing work hours as the key to reducing downtime, consistent with the law’s incentives.

“Seattle and New York have not thought through the negative impacts of their actions,” Uber Eats spokesperson Josh Gold said in an email, adding that he believed there were better options for protecting worker flexibility, such as a California law that recategorizes gig workers. as independent contractors.

DoorDash spokesperson Eli Scheinholtz called both cities’ laws “extreme” in a statement, adding that “the end result was the same: higher fees for consumers, fewer orders for merchants and less work for Dashers.”

When the law took effect in New York, both apps announced that customers in the city could no longer add a tip when paying, instead making it available only after a driver was assigned in the case of DoorDash or after the food has been delivered for Uber Eats. . The apps also added additional fees for New York City customers, starting at around $2. Restaurant fees are capped at 23% of the purchase price.

New York City’s rule allows apps to pay about $30 an hour on average for “active time” employees spend delivering orders, or $18 an hour on average for all time where they are connected, including “passive time” spent waiting for a message. job. Apps don’t have to pay workers who don’t make any deliveries. Businesses can also decide retroactively which of the two calculations they will use, so delivery workers never know exactly what they are being paid for until a week later.

That change is likely why Pineda ended up with lower pay after the January storm, according to pay stubs and reviews shared with The Associated Press by him and others.

Seattle’s system only counts active time, paid a minimum of 44 cents per minute, plus 74 cents per mile. In New York, no mileage is paid.

“People are counting on you to bring them their food,” said Daniel Mendoza, a delivery driver who receives coffee and breakfast in Pineda, also from Venezuela. “We do magic.”

Mendoza said in February that the new system had been more lucrative for him.

But on March 4, Doordash made the same change as Uber Eats, which angered Pineda so much. It’s impossible to say whether Mendoza’s salary will increase or decrease, but it will become less predictable.

In a statement, Doordash said the payment method used since December was unsustainable and that workers like Mendoza “may also benefit from additional weekly wage adjustments.”

GrubHub spokesperson Najy Kamal said in a statement that delivery workers earn more overall in New York and Seattle, and the company is committed to complying with the new wage standards.

Meanwhile, Pineda continues to make money the old-fashioned way. While serving delivery drivers near Chick-fil-A recently, an employee from the fast-food chain stuck his head out the door and yelled, asking him what kind of arepas he had. Beef, Pineda’s girlfriend replied.

“I’ll take two,” he said, waiting for her to deliver them to him – in exchange for paper money.

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