‘Wage’ legislation aims to ensure Seattle app-based workers earn minimum wage, among other protections

An installation created by Working Washington’s Pay Up campaign in front of Seattle City Hall. (Credit: Working Washington)

Council members Lisa Herbold (District 1) and Andrew Lewis (District 7) unveiled Pay, a bill to improve pay and working conditions for app-based workers in Seattle. Under the legislation, app-based workers would be guaranteed to earn at least minimum wage. Additionally, workers and customers would receive more transparent information about fees and payments, and workers’ rights to select jobs and hours would be protected. According to estimates by Working Washington, an advocacy group that campaigns on behalf of app-based workers, the legislation would impact more than 40,000 workers, many of whom are immigrants and people of color.

“Work is work whether it’s app-driven or not,” Lewis said in a press release. “These policies ensure that people who depend on app-based work receive fair compensation under transparent working conditions. This proposition has big implications for what the future of work will look like in the 21st century.

Council member Lisa Herbold speaks at a press conference announcing proposed Pay Up legislation for Seattle app-based workers. (Credit: Working Washington)

The name Pay Up is borrowed from a campaign by Working Washington, which has become a national movement for app-based workers’ rights. The Seattle City Council first addressed the issues championed by the organization in June 2021. Since then, council members have held 12 stakeholder meetings with representatives from businesses that use a workforce based on apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, Rover and Instacart. Independent contractors working for these companies and representatives from Working Washington were also included in the policy discussions.

The council plans to review legislation related to six key areas of concern for app-based workers.

  1. Minimum payment, transparency and flexibility
  2. Access to toilets
  3. Anti discrimination
  4. Background check
  5. Deactivation
  6. Advisory Board

So far, only the first policy point has been finalized and made public. Under the proposed legislation, app-based workers would be entitled to earn a minimum payment equivalent to minimum wage. The payment would be set by two factors: a per-minute compensation in which committed minutes would be compensated and a per-mile amount in which miles flown would also be compensated. Since delivery drivers and delivery drivers spend a lot of time in the car to and from gigs, this is crucial.

A description of how the minimum payment for app-based workers would be calculated. (Credit: Payments Legislation)

App-based workers have long complained of earning wages that may fall below minimum wage requirements. Because they are listed as independent contractors, app-based workers are not covered by basic labor standards and protections. According to Mikey Pullman, a construction worker and campaign manager for Pay Up who spoke at a press conference on April 7, it has allowed companies to cut costs “by exploiting a huge loophole in our work “.

In addition to earning low wages, app-based workers have also complained of a lack of clarity on how they are compensated. Many clients also don’t know how much people doing app-based work for them get paid. The second aspect of the first legislation aims to increase transparency for all parties involved. It would achieve this by requiring companies to share how job offers would comply with the new minimum payment system. Clients would also receive a more detailed description of fees, including amounts paid to workers and retained by the company.

For compliance purposes, companies employing app-based workers would also be required to provide the City of Seattle Office of Labor Standards with regular access to their company records.

The final issue addressed by the bill is flexibility. App-based workers have complained about how fears of being decommissioned or removed from an app have led them to accept job offers they would not otherwise accept based on timing, the nature of the work or remuneration provided. Under the legislation, app-based workers would have the right to freely select offers and hours without penalty.

The Seattle City Council will discuss the bill at an upcoming meeting of the Public Safety and Social Services Committee, Tuesday, April 12 at 9:30 a.m. The other five major policy areas are to be addressed by subsequent legislation proposed for later this year.

This isn’t the first time that app-based worker legislation has been under consideration in Washington state. Seattle captured national attention in June 2020 when it was the first in the United States to pass the Ordinance on the payment of the premium for pieceworkersa law instituting a $2.50 per trip premium and accrual of at least one sick day for every 30 days worked in the city for app-based workers intended to remain in effect for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic Covid-19.

In the 2022 legislative session, a bill (HB 2076) authored by Liz Berry creating uniform state standards for ride-sharing companies to establish minimum per-mile, per-minute, and per-ride rates, paid sick leave, and workers’ compensation coverage for drivers , was passed by the state legislature and approved by Governor Jay Inslee. In exchange for these concessions, app-based workers will retain their contractor status, which will limit opportunities to unionize. It should come into force this summer.

Natalie Bicknell Argerious

Chief Editor

Natalie Bicknell Argerious (her) is the editor of The Urbanist. A passionate urban explorer since childhood, she loves learning how to make cities more inclusive, dynamic and environmentally resilient. You can often find her wandering around Seattle’s Central District and Capitol Hill with her dogs and cat. Email natalie [at] the town planner [dot] org.


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