Circumstances For Delivery Workers Have Worsened

New Survey of App-Based Delivery Workers Confirms a Struggling Workforce Whose Circumstances Have Worsened During COVID

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Findings will be presented at this morning’s LAFCo meeting, which just started at 10am on SF Gov TV Channel 1. The item should be called between 10:45-11:00am. 

Delivery Workers In San Francisco Are Struggling

San Francisco – Today the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) and UC Santa Cruz Professor Chris Benner released the findings of a new in-person representative survey of app-based delivery workers in San Francisco that provides a snapshot of a struggling workforce whose circumstances have been made significantly worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest findings are based on 259 completed surveys of DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon Fresh workers. The survey, conducted in July and August, was commissioned by LAFCo in a unique partnership between academic researchers, community organizers, and an innovative platform cooperative.

"These are jobs that have grown since the pandemic, providing essential work getting food to people in their homes", said Benner, "but the work is very poorly paid, and in contrast to what the platform companies like to present, the majority of the work in the city is done by people for whom this is their only source of income and who work full-time or nearly full-time doing this work."

Among the key findings:

  • 76% of those surveyed are people of color, and 39% immigrants.
  • 71% obtain at least three quarters of their monthly income from platform work, and 57% rely entirely on platform work for their monthly income.
  • While workers average $450 per week from this work, after adjusting for mileage expenses, they average only $270 per week.
  • Workers averaged 32 hours per week working for all the apps, and 30 hours per week for the app they were surveyed on. Instacart workers were more likely to work longer hours.
  • Women and non-gender binary people perform 39% of the food and grocery delivery work, including a slight majority of Instacart work. Our survey of ride-hailing workers was much more male-dominated.
  • One quarter of this workforce is reliant on some form of public assistance.
  • One fifth of these food and grocery delivery workers are on food stamps.
  • 14% do not have health insurance.

Enforsing State Employment Laws

Some of the survey findings point to platforms managing job opportunities in ways that would likely support claims that these workers are employees under the “ABC” test codified in California Assembly Bill 5.

“These findings underscore the importance of policy makers ensuring that existing city, and state employment laws are enforced for on-demand delivery work, and finding new ways to address the economic, safety and public health concerns facing this critical workforce,” the report concludes.

This is the third LAFCo-commissioned survey of on-demand work released by UC Santa Cruz this year in partnership with the Jobs With Justice Education Fund, Jobs With Justice San Francisco and the Driver’s Seat Cooperative.

In May, the survey team released the results of a unique, in-person representative survey of ride-hailing and food delivery workers that was conducted and then suspended when the pandemic hit, as well as a follow-up online survey. The central findings were simple and clear—for a large portion of this workforce, despite this being full-time work, they were financially vulnerable before the outbreak, and the crisis is pushing many of them to the brink.

The surveys and broader study are funded by LAFCo, ReWork the Bay, the San Francisco Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Chavez Family Foundation.

The Local Agency Formation Commission is an independent regulatory body that is the oversight authority for CleanPowerSF, the City’s community choice energy program, and conducts special studies. It’s governed by a five-member Commission that includes three members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Chair Sandra Lee Fewer, Gordon Mar and Matt Haney, a public member, Vice Chair Cynthia Crews-Pollock, and alternative public member Shanti Singh.