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Delivery Workers Fear Mayor’s Plan to Regulate Industry Could Lead to Criminalization

"We need solutions that are about treating us as essential workers, not as criminals," said Los Deliveristas Unidos in a statement.

As part of his State of the City address on Wednesday, Mayor Eric Adams announced an ambitious proposal to create a brand new city agency called the Department of Sustainable Delivery. The proposed agency would regulate the booming app-based delivery industry which currently employs 65,000 delivery workers.

If implemented, the first-in-the-nation regulatory entity would establish clear goals and guidelines for the growing delivery industry and consolidate enforcement currently spread out over multiple city agencies. The agency would mandate that delivery apps monitor workers and would require them to obey street and traffic laws as well as possess city IDs.

Also Read: New York’s Delivery Workers One Step Closer to Earning $17.96 an Hour

Wednesday’s announcement came as a surprise to delivery workers who fear that the proposed agency could be another way for the city to further criminalize them. 

“While we agree on the urgency to find solutions to the safety issues, we are concerned that we, deliveristas, are being blamed for all problems,” said Gustavo Ajche, an app-based delivery worker and co-founder of Los Deliveristas Unidos in a statement. “We want to be at the table developing real solutions with the city. We need solutions that are about treating us as essential workers, not as criminals.” 

Ajche says the apps such as Uber and GrubHub should be penalized, not the drivers. 

Also Read: Rideshare, Delivery Workers Demand Protections from App Companies

“I agree with the Mayor that traffic safety is public safety, but he also needs to recognize that labor rights for deliveristas is about public safety,” he said. “We need more workers’ rights protections for deliveristas, not more fines, no more policing nor more criminalization.

Antonio Solis, another delivery worker who is also a member of Los Deliveristas Unidos, was left confused by the mayor’s announcement. “They have not had communication with any worker and of course,” he said. 

Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Workers Justice Project was particularly concerned with the language around requiring drivers to have city IDs.

“The reality is that the city needs to recognize that delivery workers are already subject to an enormous amount of traffic enforcement,” she saId.  “Our concern is that licensing is about giving more power to the police.”

Currently, the Workers Justice Project and Los Deliveristas Unidos are fighting to expand the scope of labor protections for delivery workers. After winning a minimum living wage for delivery workers last year, the organizations are now pushing for pay transparency, protections from unfair deactivations, and a fund for injured workers. Guallpa wants the city to focus on that instead of regulations.

“We have shared with the deputy mayor that the right approach is to build stronger rights and protections, “she said. “We don’t need an agency to put blame on workers, we need an active agency that is willing to engage our community that educates them.”

The Mayor’s office did not respond to Documented’s request for comment. Before the new agency is created, it would first need to be approved by the City Council.  

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