NYC Wants To Raise The Minimum Wage For 'Deliveristas' To $24 An Hour

Working in the fast food industry is infamously tough, but if there's any good place to do it, it's New York City. In September, the city sued Starbucks on behalf of one barista, Austin Locke, who was allegedly unlawfully terminated for supporting unionization, per CNBC. The city demanded that Locke be reinstated with back pay and reparations — and that's just one example of NYC's dedication to industry workers.

NYC's "Just Cause" law was specifically created to provide job protection for fast food workers, who are often treated as disposable by employers in an industry with a famously high turnover rate (per a press release). Last year, KitchenToast reported that the fast food industry's turnover rate reached 150%; the quit rate also hit an all-time high in 2021. The Just Cause law, which took effect on July 4, 2021, states that employers cannot legally fire workers without providing legitimate evidence of employee misconduct, per the press release. In other words, workers cannot be fired without a real reason. New York City also has the Fair Workweek Law, which requires fast food employees to be given consistent schedules from week to week, with at least 14-days' advance notice of that schedule. Workers must be allowed to turn down additional shifts and close-open shifts.

Now, New York City is turning its attention to a crucial yet overlooked sector of its fast food industry: delivery drivers. NYC wants to raise the minimum wage for "deliveristas" to nearly $24 an hour.

An expansion of existing worker protection rules

Earlier this week, New York City's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection proposed that food service delivery drivers (for apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash) be paid a minimum wage of $23.82/hour, says Restaurant Business. The figure breaks down to a $19.86 base rate, $2.26 for gas and car maintenance, and $1.70 to compensate for the lack of health insurance and workers' comp. Since delivery drivers are technically considered independent contractors, they haven't been included in the labor regulations extended to other NYC fast food employees — that is, until now.

The city is home to an estimated 60,000 app-based food delivery drivers, many of whom ride bicycles and mopeds. That's part of the reason why, says the city, delivery drivers currently have the highest injury rate of any occupation (via Restaurant Business). 33 on-the-job fatalities occurred in NYC in the last two years alone. Per NBC New York, at least a third of delivery drivers who ride an e-bike or moped have been assaulted on the job. To add insult to injury (literally), the current minimum wage for deliveristas is $7.09 before tips, per Restaurant Business.

Paving the way for change

If approved, the $23.82 wage would take effect in 2025, says Restaurant Business, but hourly pay would immediately increase to $17.87. A public hearing is scheduled to take place on December 16 to determine the outcome. Admittedly, via NBC New York, the city says this new rule would increase the price tag for app users — by potentially more than $5 per order. But, it's a small price to pay for equal employment.

NYC has inspired other states to follow suit. In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new labor law for Sacramento fast food workers. It's called the FAST Recovery Act, and it may raise the minimum wage to $22/hour starting in 2023, per Restaurant Dive. When the Just Cause rule first passed last year, SEIU President Kyle Bragg said, "The workers who keep New Yorkers fed shouldn't have to worry about whether they'll be able to put food on their own tables." Now, New York City is seeing this sentiment through in a big way.