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This article was originally published on Nov 21 1:28pm EST by THE CITY

Deliverista Antonio Solis speaks outside City Hall, Nov. 21, 2022. | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Last week, the city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection proposed a minimum pay rate for the city’s app-based delivery workers that would boost their hourly wages, including operating costs, to $17.87, increasing to $23.82 by April 1, 2025.

Many workers who spoke to THE CITY cheered the proposal, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 pending a public feedback period that concludes on Dec. 16. 

“We had no idea what we were getting into. We went from being seen, as one of my compañeros said, as insects or misfits to, at this point, achieving something much bigger,” said Sergio Ajche, a leader of the labor group Los Deliveristas Unidos, in an interview Saturday.

“These minimum pay standards, I would say, are going to drastically change the delivery industry in New York City. And that’s thanks to the movement we’ve built in fighting for the more than 65,000 delivery workers here,” Ajche said. “To me, that’s huge.”

But not everyone’s happy: On Monday, a handful of delivery workers and members of the labor group, all of whom toil on mopeds, gathered at City Hall to ask the city to “adjust” its proposal by an additional $5, claiming its estimate of their operating costs is too low.

Once the $23.82 hourly rate is fully implemented by 2025, it will include $2.26 hourly for operating expenses; workers requested the additional $5 for expense purposes, which would bring the rate to $28.82.

“We are asking the city to make a $5 adjustment, to go that extra mile to ensure we get to a living wage,” said Astoria delivery worker Antonio Solís, who uses a moped for work, outside of City Hall on Monday. “The equipment, insurance costs, gas, maintenance — that all adds up.”

Hildalyn Colón Hernández, the policy director of the Workers Justice Project, which represents the Deliveristas, said the $5 proposal was not all-or-nothing.

“We are not rejecting the city’s proposal. We’re simply asking for an adjustment — just like with any proposal, you have the opportunity to counter it,” Colón Hernández said Monday.

Gas, Insurance, Tune-ups

Because the workers are considered independent contractors and not employees, delivery companies are not required to pay them a minimum wage. The city’s proposal, similar to the regulations existing for Uber and Lyft drivers, seeks to force the companies to pay workers a regular hourly wage.

The city Department of Consumer and Worker Protection estimates delivery workers currently earn as little as $4 an hour before tips.

The agency’s proposal follows new protections that went into effect in January of this year: Most of the city’s restaurants now must let delivery workers picking up orders use the bathroom, and apps must furnish brand-identified insulated bags to workers at no cost and provide transparency around wages and tips.

“This is an amazing achievement,” delivery worker Ernesta Galvez said in an interview. “Where it was unthinkable that a delivery worker could have something resembling a minimum wage it’s now a reality. This is huge.”

The request for an additional $5 an hour is mostly led by workers who toil by moped, who say the city’s operational cost estimates are too low to cover the cost of gas, registration, insurance and the actual vehicle, which can cost thousands of dollars.

“We encourage all New Yorkers to submit comments ahead of the public hearing on December 16th,” said DCWP spokesperson Michael Lanza. “All feedback will be considered before the final rule goes into effect.”

Some delivery workers argue they need an increase in expenses to offset the cost of using motorized vehicles, Nov. 21, 2022. | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Willy Medina, who like other workers, prefers a moped to an e-bike so that he doesn’t have to worry about charging the batteries, said his monthly expenses are much higher than those of workers who toil by e-bike or bike. He spends $35 per month for insurance, and $120 per month for gas, and takes his $3,800 moped for regular tune-ups, he said.

“Using a moped is like having a car,” Medina said in Spanish. “So we’re a little concerned this proposal won’t meet our needs.”

Workers who spoke with THE CITY said they intended to submit the $5 proposal as part of the public review process. Even those who toil by e-bike, like Ajche, say the starting $17.87 rate falls below the minimum wage after deducting expenses.

Carmen de la Rosa (D-Manhattan), the Council’s labor committee chair, lauded the city’s life-changing proposed minimum pay standard.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” she said on Saturday. “I honestly believe that, at this point in time, to have that base pay is really going to substantially change the lives of these workers and that they deserve this pay.”

At City Hall on Monday, she said she was in “solidarity” with the workers asking for more money.

Ajche said that a cultural change around delivery workers, both among restaurants and customers, has been as meaningful as the city’s regulations.

“You still have some situations where the restaurants give you a hard time with the bathrooms and letting you park your bike while you wait for the order to be ready. But people in general are more thoughtful now: They offer us coffee or water, or to let us sit down for a while, customers give us better tips and ask about our jobs,” he said.

“When I go out on the streets, I see other workers happy and sharing positive experiences — it makes me feel proud of how far we’ve come.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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