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Food delivery apps are booming, while their workers often struggle. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Food delivery apps are booming, while their workers often struggle.

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With New York City’s unemployment rate at 13.2 percent, many people have turned to working for food delivery apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub, which have seen huge demand from customers.

While delivery drivers have been essential to feeding New Yorkers and keeping them safe, their working conditions, already precarious before the pandemic, have gotten worse.

Even as the food delivery companies have seen sales surge, the workers’ pay has remained erratic. Because the drivers are independent workers, they are not entitled to a minimum wage, overtime or any other benefits, like health insurance. Undocumented immigrants, who are not eligible for unemployment or federal coronavirus assistance, make up the bulk of the work force in New York.

The added competition from the surge in new workers has compounded the financial challenges. Advocacy groups estimate that there were roughly 50,000 delivery workers before the pandemic — a number they say has grown exponentially. Uber alone said it had added 36,000 couriers in New York since March.

DoorDash and Uber said they had provided extra help to delivery drivers during the pandemic, including offering sick pay to those who were infected. DoorDash, the nation’s largest food delivery app, said it provided access to low-cost telemedicine appointments.

DoorDash also said it had changed its pay model, which came under fire last year after it was revealed that tips were being used to subsidize its payments to workers. The company recently reached a $2.5 million settlement with prosecutors in Washington, D.C., after being accused of misleading consumers over how it tipped its workers.

Drivers for food delivery apps are typically paid per delivery depending on the estimated duration and distance of a trip, plus tips. The work can be convenient for people supplementing a main source of income, but a struggle for those who depend on it as a primary job, advocates for the workers said.


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