Minnesota, beware: Seattle law meant to raise wages for app delivery workers is hurting them

The 2024 Minnesota legislative session is about to start next week, and there is likely going to be a debate on raising the minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers. Seattle, however, offers the latest example of why it would be a mistake for the state to interfere in the gig industry.

To help app delivery workers, Seattle passed a series of laws in 2022 — termed PayUp — one of which raised wages for workers effective January 13 this year. Specifically, Seattle’s law established a minimum per-minute and per-mile pay rate that would ensure that drivers make the equivalent of Seattle’s minimum wage, which is now about $20, plus expenses.

According to the news, however, this has backfired and is hurting the same drivers the law was intended to help. Delivery apps have raised fees for customers, and orders have started drying up for drivers.

What used to be considered “hotspots” for workers on those apps, feel a little colder since Jan. 13, according to several drivers we heard from. That includes Gary Lardizabal, a longtime, app-based, food delivery driver in Seattle.

“Sundays before the ordinance,” Lardizabal. “You know, we’d be thinking breakfast. Today, I didn’t even touch it. They’re not going to order. It is definitely backfiring.”

Since the ordinance went into effect last month, Mia Shagen said her delivery opportunities have been slashed.

“I’ve got nothin,” Shagen said. “I’m not gonna sit here for hours for one frickin’ order.”

Even on typically busy delivery days, groups of drivers can be seen waiting around together in groups in high-density restaurant areas.

“Instead of it stopping at 2:30 or 3:00, it’s stopping at like one o’clock, sometimes even a little bit before,” Shagen said. “So literally at like one o’clock, suddenly, there are no orders anymore.”

While Doordash estimated that Dashers would get paid at minimum $26.40 per hour before tips due to the ordinance, that’s not what’s been happening, as the bad news continues.

“They’re not telling the whole story,” Shagen said. “Assuming that you are working constantly, then yes, you’re going to be making that much money. But that’s not what’s happening right now. Because people are not ordering as much anymore. The tips are going down because they think we’re making all this money.”

One driver shared how much he made on this week last year: $931. But this week, he only made $464.81.

Lardizabal said their “bread and butter” is often South Lake Union, near Amazon. But KING 5’s visit to the area Sunday resulted in several conversations with bored delivery workers who reiterated their wages have been slashed.

But drivers are not the only ones feeling the pinch from this new law. Customers have also seen their fees skyrocket, and some have ended up deleting their apps. As one editor for Geekwire — a news site based in Seattle — recounts,

In September I was charged $44.90 for a gyro delivery, and an additional $8.47 in service and delivery fees, before tip and tax.

The same order today is also $44.90 for the food — which, by the way, is about 20% more than what the restaurant charges in-store — but now has $18.27 in fees. That’s more than double from September.

Good intentions do not equal positive outcomes

Seattle is not the only place that has seen well-intentioned policy for gig workers backfire. California, for example, passed a law requiring that independent contractors should be treated as employees. Gig workers, however, only saw their business dry up after the law was passed. The law faced so much backlash that California ended up exempting numerous professions from it.

Gig workers in Minnesota will be best served if lawmakers steer clear of “helping.”