Seattle is the first U.S. city to permanently require sick leave for delivery and certain app-based workers – GeekWire

Uber Eats and other food-delivery drivers will receive paid sick leave under rules approved by the Seattle City Council. Seattle appears to be the first U.S. municipality to require these benefits. (Photo via Uber)

The Seattle City Council today unanimously approved rules providing paid sick leave for food-delivery and other on-demand, app-based gig economy workers. The city appears to be the first in the nation to permanently ensure these protections.

“Seattle’s leading the nation in worker protections and I’m really proud of that,” said city council member Teresa Mosqueda in an interview with GeekWire.

The measure applies to workers for companies such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats, as well as platforms providing on-demand work such as laundry services and car washing. Similar benefits already exist at the state level for ride-hailing companies including Lyft and Uber. Seattle’s legislation provides a suite of sick and “safe” time benefits including paid time off for:

  • an illness and preventative health care;
  • if a company stops operations due to a public health emergency or other safety reason;
  • due to a school closure for a family member; and
  • in order to seek services for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Mosqueda sponsored the legislation and was also the lead on similar, temporary protections put in place in June 2020 to aid workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Bruce Harrell drafted the new legislation in partnership with the council and lauded passage of the measure, according to a statement.

The rules go into effect May 1 as the temporary protections for food-delivery workers end. Protections for other workers start in 2024.

Mosqueda said the city learned from the temporary program and worked with the delivery companies to come up with a streamlined, easy-to-manage process for providing the benefits. Those efforts have limited the opposition to the bill.

“There hasn’t been a big outcry this time around because we have proof of concept at this point,” she said.

A spokesperson for DoorDash declined to comment on the legislation; Grubhub and Uber Eats did not respond to a request for a comment. Multiple delivery workers testified before the council in support of the measure.

Seattle and Washington state have led the charge to protect independent, gig-economy workers, including ride-hailing and food-delivery drivers.

A lot of the credit for getting the legislation passed goes to the Drivers Union, an affiliate of Teamsters 117, said Marissa Baker, an assistant professor with the University of Washington’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

“From a public health perspective, it is extremely important for all workers to have access to paid sick leave, and the ability to take it without retaliation or retribution,” Baker said by email.

For many delivery drivers, the work represents their primary income. Among gig platform workers, 31% said it was their main job, while 68% said it was a side job, according to a 2021 study by Pew Research Center. The benefits will have an outsized benefit for BIPOC adults: higher percentages of Black, Hispanic and Asian adults work for gig platforms than white workers.

According to the new rules, gig workers will accrue one day of time off for every 30 days of work that include a stop in Seattle. The amount paid will be an average of the compensation earned in the preceding 12 months. Nine days of paid sick leave can be carried over annually. And delivery companies are required to provide workers with written information about these benefits on a monthly basis.

Here are some of the laws addressing gig workers in Washington:

  • In June 2020, Seattle leaders approved a bill temporarily providing paid sick leave for gig workers while the city remained in a state of emergency due to the pandemic.
  • In March 2022, Washington state lawmakers approved first-of-its kind legislation establishing a minimum wage and paid sick leave for drivers for Lyft, Uber and similar companies.
  • In June 2022, Seattle created a law setting a minimum wage and other protections for gig workers who deliver meals, groceries and packages, and some on-demand service providers.

City and state lawmakers have not mandated benefits for gig workers in other roles, such as Rover’s dog walkers and pet sitters or TaskRabbit’s handyperson workers. But that could be on the horizon.

“It’s worthy of a conversation about how we continue to expand labor protections,” Mosqueda said. “But it has to be carefully crafted.”

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