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Seattle City Council considering minimum pay for gig workers

The 'PayUp' proposal, as drafted, would require companies to provide minimum pay using a formula that considers factors like time, mileage and a minimum wage rate.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council is considering a proposal that would require certain companies offering gig work jobs over online platforms to provide a minimum pay rate, dependent on factors including time and mileage. 

Gig workers organizing through Working Washington shared their experiences with council members, hoping to pass a series of legislation impacting work conditions.

Kimberly Wolfe initially picked up gig work for its flexibility and, years ago, found that it would pay her bills and rent while she pursued educational opportunities. But with time, she says, cost of living and work expenses rose, but rates did not with many of the companies she worked for.

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"Slowly lowering and you have to do more hours to get the same amount of money, and at one point I realized, when I did my budget for the year, I couldn't actually afford rent and pay my other bills," Wolfe said. "Then my car got totaled and my new one was lower in gas mileage, so my gas almost doubled, and with all that, it basically tipped me over the edge into homelessness. And it's taken me a while to get out of that and passed that."

Another worker who goes by Maelstrom shared that they pick up shifts in Capitol Hill and other busy areas during rush hours. Because of that, they do tend to make a fair wage. But they say that's not doable for everyone. Because web-platformed gig work is a fairly new industry, it's still catching up in terms of labor protections. 

"This is an adjustment to the contract between the worker and their relationship to the economy," they said. "We want to make it so that if you're working, you make at least minimum wage after the cost of your job; we want people to be able to work and make the money enough to work to justify working. It is very frustrating to do any job long enough for it to fall below what we culturally have decided is a minimum wage."

City staff presented a draft proposal for the "PayUp" Policy in a Public Safety and Human Services committee meeting last week. They detailed which types of businesses would be impacted, how minimum pay would be calculated, and what other potential regulations they are considering putting into place. In that meeting, concerns were also raised about how it could impact businesses and whether prices would be passed on to customers.

KING 5 reached out to several companies that could be impacted. A DoorDash spokesperson responded, saying: 

“DoorDash is proud to provide flexible, low-barrier earning opportunities for Seattle Dashers while helping local restaurants grow their businesses. We welcome conversations that promote the interests of Dashers, and look forward to continuing discussions with decision-makers on this issue.”

Gig workers with Working Washington plan to hold actions in the coming week to push council members to take action soon. At this point, it is just a proposal.

"We cannot delay on this," Wolfe said. "We've already had so many gig workers really hurting through COVID. That just made everything harder and people are in their last reserves if they had any to begin with. We can't be doing this another year. Study it, we need these changes now."

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