Postmates strike: Give us COVID-19 protections, or no Chipotle deliveries


Postmates delivery workers say they sometimes make as little as $4.20 per hour because of long wait times at restaurants.

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Postmates is the latest gig economy company to become the subject of worker protests. Some delivery workers for Postmates said Tuesday that they’ll be holding a three-day strike to call attention to what they say is a lack of adequate safety protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

The protest will involve those workers refusing to make any deliveries on Chipotle orders from April 29 to May 1. They’re calling it a #GuacOff. They’ve singled out Chipotle because even though the fast-food chain said it’s giving its employees sick leave and a 10% pay raise during the outbreak, it’s still partnering with Postmates when its delivery workers don’t get equivalent benefits. 

“There’s no place for gig workers to wash their hands. We’re not being protected in that sense,” said Amber Martines, who’s a part time Postmates worker based in San Jose, California. She’s affiliated with Pay Up, a group that’s helped organize the three-day strike. “I’m having a lot of grocery store runs and those are hotbeds for coming in contact with contaminated people.”

Gig workers — like Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash delivery people and Uber and Lyft drivers — are considered essential workers, which means they can continue to work as the coronavirus spreads. As shelter-in-place orders are in effect, they’ve been delivering food to people in quarantine and transporting medical workers to and from the hospital. Many gig workers say the companies they work for haven’t supplied them with enough protections while on the job.

Workers for Instacart, Amazon and Shipt have also staged strikes over the past few weeks, demanding more help. While most of these companies say they’ll give two weeks sick leave to workers, CNET found that this assistance is difficult to come by. Workers for these companies say they’ve also had difficulty getting personal protective equipment for when they’re out on deliveries.

“I went out and bought my own gloves and my own mask,” Martines said. “And for those workers who do end up getting sick on the job, they should be given sick pay.”    

Because gig workers are classified as independent contractors, rather than employees, they don’t qualify for company health insurance, sick leave, family leave, disability or workers’ compensation.

A Postmates spokeswoman said the company has several initiatives to help its workers and additionally offers them free safety gear. She said the company is doing its best to pay couriers a living wage.

“Postmates always respects the right to free speech and to ensure worker’s voices are heard. The organizations involved in these actions are not associated with Postmates,” the Postmates spokeswoman said. “We will continue to work directly with our fleet and worker-advocacy groups to ensure we are continuing to support essential workers at this time.”

The Postmates workers organized with Pay Up say that’s not enough, however. They have several demands: a $5 hazard pay for all deliveries; better safety equipment, like a supply of masks and hand sanitizer; and easily accessible paid leave if they get infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Workers also want the option of doing no-contact deliveries.

The protestors say Chipotle is giving customers free deliveries but isn’t doing anything to help those people delivering the food. They say that once a worker gets an order, waits in line for the food and then delivers it to the customer, they often make only about $2 per half hour of work. For comparison, $2 is what Chipotle charges for a scoop of guacamole. Workers say Postmates pays 7 cents per minute for time spent waiting for orders and with long lines that adds up to about $4.20 an hour.

“Postmates shouldn’t be allowed to get away with putting workers — and the public — at risk during the crisis,” Pay Up said in a statement. “And restaurants like Chipotle shouldn’t get off the hook when they’re partnering with a company that pays workers less than they charge for a scoop of guac.”

Chipotle didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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