Seattle Council Votes To Require Companies to Provide Hazard Pay to Gig Workers

Liz Carey

Seattle, WA ( – The Seattle City Council voted recently to require Instacart and other food delivery companies pay their delivery drivers an extra $2.50 per order during the COVID-19 pandemic as “hazard pay.”

The move comes on the heels of the city council’s vote to force those same companies provide gig workers with paid sick days.

Seattle is the first city to mandate a premium pay for delivery workers. Employees at companies like GrubHub, DoorDash, and Instacart use independent contractors who are not covered by things like workers’ compensation, health insurance, paid time off, unemployment insurance and wage and hour laws.

Councilman Andrew Lewis, who sponsored the law, said he wanted to make sure that the essential workers are compensated for taking steps to protect themselves with disinfectant and hand sanitizer.

“Frontline workers across the country, from medical professionals to grocery store workers, have received hazard pay to compensate for increased exposure to coronavirus during this pandemic,” Lewis said when he co-introduced the measure.

Grocery delivery workers spend more time around people than other workers, he said during the meeting Tuesday night.

The ordinance would require gig companies to pay the extra $2.50 per delivery out of their own funds, and not pass that fee on to customers, and that the company cannot significantly reduce its areas of service in the city. The ordinance also states that it is only temporary during the COVID-19 emergency.

Originally, the proposed per delivery fee had been $5.

Prior to the meeting, Instacart purchased a full-page ad in the Seattle Times alleging the per delivery fee could make their business unsustainable in Seattle.

“We’re disappointed that the Seattle City Council has ignored the voices of its community by passing today’s bill that strains grocery and food delivery,” Instacart, a San Francisco-based service, said in a statement. “We believe this action by the City Council is illegal and unconstitutional, and should this ordinance come into effect, we will move swiftly with a legal challenge.”

In early March, gig workers went on strike to protest the conditions of working at businesses like Instacart and DoorDash during the pandemic. The striking workers asked for personal protective equipment, unemployment insurance and paid sick time, should they be exposed to the virus.

Companies such as Instacart and Uber Eats worry that the legislation could spread to other cities. Council members in places like Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco have already proposed legislation that would expand sick leave for gig workers and give them more protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Washington, D. C, the district’s attorney general reached an agreement with Instacart to provide telemedicine appointments for its delivery drivers and to allow them to take up to 14 days of paid leave if they test positive for COVID-19, or live with someone who has tested positive.

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