October 22, 2021

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Delivery workers in New York City are finally getting the right to use the bathroom (yes, really)

New York City Council members voted to pass a historic bill that guarantees bathroom access for food delivery drivers in the city at restaurants where they are picking up food or drinks, as reported by Vice. The exception to this access will be if it would create potential health risks. Otherwise, any restaurant caught denying workers access to its bathroom could face fines starting at $50 for the first incident, and $100 for each following offense. 

The bill is thanks largely to grassroots workers in the Los Deliveristas Unidos coalition, and covers a few other pieces of important ground. For example, the bill limits how far drivers can be asked to deliver an order, as well as guarantees a minimum pay-out per trip. Interestingly on the customer side, apps will also have to tell people where their tip payment is actually going. What does this mean in practice? Customers will be able to see how their tip is paid out (for example, does the driver get cash? Check?), when their driver will receive it, and how much of each tip they actually get.

On the flip, drivers will also be able to see how much they’ve been tipped, if a customer had changed an existing tip (and if a reason was given by the customer, what that reason was), and how much they earned in tips the previous day. 

If you’re wondering why these workers haven’t already had bathroom access, it’s because they are technically classified as independent contractors. They’re not traditional employees, and, bizarrely, they’re not customers, either. So restaurants have gotten away with forbidding them access to their bathrooms, which is terrible in general, but especially during the pandemic when handwashing and general hygiene is especially important. 

Councilmember Carlina Rivera worked closely with Los Deliveristas and emailed with Grubstreet about the bill. “We’ve seen them face everything from COVID-19 exposure to waist-deep flood waters to violent attacks, all in a day’s work,” she wrote. “The package of bills passing today marks a critical first step toward securing rights, protections, and justice for our delivery workers.”

It feels uniquely dystopian to be writing about workers (or anyone) getting something so basic and necessary as bathroom access in this day and age, but given that those in power historically love to stomp on workers’ rights, it’s sadly not at all surprising. 

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