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Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees

Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands DNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates Warren book reflects on losing 2020 bid: 'Painful' MORE (D-Mass.) sent letters to the CEOs of four major food delivery apps Wednesday calling on them to reclassify their workers as full employees and provide them with increased labor protections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Delivery workers are experiencing serious health and economic vulnerabilities as a result of their jobs, and your company is failing to provide appropriate and necessary protections," the former 2020 presidential candidate wrote to DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Instacart.

"I urge you to reclassify your delivery workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, and ensure they are provided a full suite of employee protections and benefits," she said.

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Warren called on the four companies to provide 14 days of paid leave to those with COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — symptoms or who need to care for family members, protective equipment and a guaranteed minimum wage with added hazard pay.

"In this public health emergency, it is more important than ever to fairly compensate these workers and provide the health and safety protections they deserve," Warren wrote. "I urge you to rise to the imperative of this public health crisis by providing paid leave, fair compensation, and adequate health and safety protections for all your workers."

The Hill has reached out to the four companies for comment on the letter.

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the already precarious working conditions of gig workers.

Those workers have taken collective action, including mass strikes, to demand more from their employers, who have made some concessions but failed to meet demands of protesters.

DoorDash, Uber and Instacart have all rolled out new paid sick leave polices, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was ultimately successful in pushing for self-employed workers to be eligible for unemployment benefits in the government's coronavirus relief package.

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The companies have continued to classify their workers as contractors despite multiple states passing laws compelling them to be classified as employees.

Contract workers are not guaranteed access to benefits like a minimum wage and labor protections, including the right to organize.

A spokesperson for Instacart told The Hill that the grocery delivery company has updated their sick leave policy and added COVID-19 related bonuses recently.

“We welcome the conversation with Senator Warren and look forward to working with her and others to further serve this important community,” they said.

A spokesperson for Uber defended its drivers’s classification, saying that instead of “restricting independent work, we should strengthen the protections and benefits afforded to it.”

They added that Uber plans to respond to Warren’s letter.

DoorDash has made protective equipment free to all workers and is offering two weeks of average earnings to those affected by COVID-19, a spokesperson told The Hill.

They also defended the food deliver’s classification, saying it provides flexibility for its workers, noting that the average driver works three hours per week.

Grubhub is also committing to free protective equipment and two weeks of sick pay to drivers impacted by the disease, a spokesperson told The Hill.