It’s official: All food delivery workers in New York City must now earn a minimum wage. According to the new law, delivery companies can pay delivery workers $17.96 per hour or 50 cents per active minute.
Uber Eats and DoorDash chose the latter option: Workers must now earn 50 cents per active minute, or $29.93 per active hour.
From the time you accept a delivery until you drop it off, your final earnings—not including tips—must be the equivalent of at least $29.93 per hour. If your earnings are less than the guaranteed rate, Uber or DoorDash must pay a supplementary payment.
To California drivers like me, the new law sounds a lot like Proposition 22, our own gig app minimum wage law. Just like the NYC law, Prop 22 guarantees a minimum wage for active time and the apps pay us a supplementary payment when we don’t earn the minimum wage from our regular earnings.
Prop 22 changed how we drive and deliver in California, and it will change delivery in NYC.
Fortunately, California drivers have years of experience that can help New Yorkers get the most out of the new minimum wage law and skip the mistakes we made in the early days of Prop 22.
Time is on your side—but don’t run up the clock!
Now that you are paid for your active time, you get paid to wait. You can slow down, longer wait times aren’t as big of a deal anymore, and you can start going back to slow restaurants you used to skip.
When we were paid by the order, the incentive was to complete orders as quickly as possible. That meant unassigning orders after only a few minutes of waiting and blacklisting slow restaurants like Popeyes and Wingstop.
But with guaranteed pay for active time, a 20-minute wait in a temperature controlled lobby is no problem. Or if the restaurant pulls you into an area with heavy traffic, it’s ok, you’ll still get paid. Time is now on your side.
But this comes with a warning: Don’t intentionally delay deliveries and run up the clock. Drivers in California regularly get deactivated by Uber and DoorDash for intentionally taking longer than the expected delivery time.
Some drivers think they can outsmart the system, but eventually your delivery time data will make it clear that you’re milking the clock, and you’ll get booted from the app.
One way that honest drivers can avoid accusations of delaying deliveries: If an order isn’t ready when you arrive, make sure to report it in the app. That leaves a paper trail to prove that your long wait was justified.
For drivers: Miles still matter! Keep your vehicle expenses low
Now that you’re getting paid for active time, you might reconsider how far you are willing to drive. If you’re getting paid for active time, why not go a few extra miles?
But miles still matter if you’re driving a car or a scooter because vehicle expenses are still your #1 largest cost. Even with the new pay, you still want to keep your costs as low as possible.
$30 per active hour isn’t enough of an incentive to put excessive miles on your vehicle when gas, wear & tear, and depreciation eat into your profits.
You always want to earn the most in as few miles as possible, so you should still skip the orders with the longest distances.
Your area might get oversaturated with drivers. Low pay is still possible
Remember, you’re only guaranteed minimum pay for active hours. You don’t get paid if you aren’t doing any orders, so your earnings can still be low on a slow day.
Here’s what happened in California: The benefits of Prop 22 attracted new drivers to sign up for delivery apps and some areas became oversaturated. Order demand stayed the same, so there aren’t always enough orders to keep the influx of drivers busy.
For NYC, you can expect a lot of new drivers lured in by the new minimum pay, but there’s a good chance that order demand won’t be able to keep them all busy. Slow days could be ahead while the market balances out.
Uber reacted to the potential flood of new drivers by creating a scheduling system—you no longer have the flexibility to sign in and work whenever you want.
Expect delays and other issues with your supplementary payments
It seems like every other week in California, drivers in Facebook groups and Reddit threads explode with complaints about delayed and missing Prop 22 payments.
I’m willing to bet that payment delays will also happen in NYC as the gig companies adjust to the new regulations. In California, payment delays are usually only a minor issue and 99% of the time we end up with our correct pay. But errors do happen and delays are almost inevitable.
And other payment & calculation mistakes can happen. Here in California, a contributor at The Rideshare Guy discovered that the gig apps ‘forgot’ to update Prop 22 payments to reflect rate increases required by the law. Eventually, they had to pay drivers make up payments.
Expect a rocky road in NYC. If there’s a delay with your supplementary payment, check with driver groups to see if it’s happening for others or just for you.
If there’s a delay for everyone, the apps will be aware of the problem and you can sit tight and wait while they sort it out. But if it’s only a problem for you, contact driver support because something could be wrong with your account.
One key difference: No more tipping before checkout in NYC
There’s a major difference in NYC that makes direct comparisons to Prop 22 more difficult: Uber Eats and DoorDash no longer allow tipping during checkout in NYC, which is a feature in every other US market, California included.
In NYC, customers now have to wait until the delivery is complete to leave a tip. The consequences for overall driver pay are still unclear and the new strategies for maximizing your earnings will change.
In California, customers can tip during checkout and we can see partial tip info in our upfront pay estimates. That allows us to skip orders from non tippers and target the highest-paying orders.
That won’t be the case in NYC. You’ll have to accept an order without any hint at the final tip, and you’ll have to hope that customers continue to tip despite the change.
If past experience is any indication, many customers forget to tip after checkout. And other new fees for NYC orders might discourage tipping now that costs are creeping higher and higher for customers.
Uber Eats and DoorDash also imply that delivery drivers now earn enough from the new law that tips aren’t as necessary as before.
With all those changes, you can expect tips to decrease in NYC. But it’s unclear how that will affect overall pay: Will the new guaranteed earnings make up for reduced tips? We will have to wait and see.