Opinion: Struggling NYC Delivery Workers Finally Got a Raise—And App Companies Are Punishing Us For It

Opinion: Struggling NYC Delivery Workers Finally Got a Raise—And App Companies Are Punishing Us For It

At the end of 2023, New York food delivery workers won a huge victory with an increase in our minimum wage. In response, app companies immediately conspired to push us back down. Now, customer tips we rely on to survive are on the line.

The State Supreme Court’s November decision to uphold the city’s new law to raise the minimum wage for delivery workers to $17.96 an hour immediately—and nearly $20 by April 2025—was met with celebration from workers, and outrage from app companies. In response to the ruling, UberEats and DoorDash announced that New York City customers will no longer be prompted to tip couriers during checkout.

Before the ruling, delivery workers in New York City made on average $11 an hour after expenses, far below the city’s minimum wage of $16 an hour or a livable wage. Securing our wage increase this fall was life-changing—making the new campaign by the delivery companies to stop our tips especially mean-spirited.

Because of UberEats and DoorDash’s cruelty, customers in New York City will no longer have the option to tip couriers when placing their order. Instead, a tipping option will only appear after an order has been delivered and completed—meaning that well-meaning customers won’t tip as often or as much, if they tip at all. It also will end delivery workers’ ability to see how much a delivery will pay them before agreeing to take it, a practice known as bidding that’s incredibly important to how we plan our workdays.

I have been a food delivery worker in New York City for UberEats and DoorDash for over a year and a half. Our work provides a needed service to the people of New York City. Since the pandemic, we have been essential to the city’s constant need for food and medicine delivery. But despite our impact, we struggle to survive. Many of us can barely pay rent. The possibility of an injury or illness that we can’t afford to treat is downright terrifying.

Tips from customers are crucial to us. I work 70-hour weeks on this job, in the snow and the rain, biking on icy roads, and it is barely enough to ensure that if someone in my family falls sick, I can help them. I cannot afford for my tips to go away. And I am one of the lucky ones who hasn’t yet dealt with a serious injury that prevents me from working—but there are no guarantees in this business.

In 2017, 62 percent of delivery workers reported experiencing a collision with a motor vehicle while working and 30 percent reported taking time off work due to injury in the past year. Worse, 33 delivery workers have been killed on the job in the last three years, making delivery work one of the deadliest jobs in New York City.

Delivery work is very dangerous, and we have virtually no protections. The very least app companies can do is promote tipping by making it an up-front, clear option for customers. UberEats and DoorDash must reverse this new policy if they want to continue making deliveries in this city.

Like me, many of my fellow delivery workers are immigrants and people of color. My wife and teenage son still live in Kazakhstan—where I’m from—and I do my best to support them. We deserve to be paid and treated fairly so that we can give ourselves and our families good lives.

As a member of the Justice for App Workers coalition and the delivery workers group NOMAD, I am fighting alongside my coworkers to improve our pay and make our lives safer. But at every turn, the app companies try to defeat us.

Besides the disappearance of the tip option, we’re up against another huge obstacle: lockouts. Lockouts prevent workers from accessing the app during certain times, meaning you can’t work whenever you log onto the app. And these lockouts are already beginning in New York City. It is devastating to get locked out. Delivery workers not only work week to week, but DAY TO DAY. My family depends on the money we get from one shift. If we can no longer turn on our apps and have the ability to work, the consequences for working immigrant families will be catastrophic.

Delivery workers provide a valuable service for the people of New York City. By organizing together, we’ve improved what were until recently poverty wages—but now, the app companies are punishing us for having the audacity to fight for a workplace where we can provide for our families with dignity.

We’re asking New Yorkers to put pressure on lawmakers and app companies to better protect us financially so that we can continue to provide a service that benefits so many. And, of course, to seek out that tip button!

Yerzhan Abdildin is a Brooklyn-based delivery worker and a member of Justice for App Workers coalition and NOMAD.

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