Protesting DoorDashers want CEO Tony Xu to ‘step up’, end ‘miserably underpaid’ work

·4 min read

Earlier this month, social media was set abuzz by DoorDash (DASH) drivers in California protesting outside the home of CEO Tony Xu, in an effort to push for more transparency around tips and higher wages.

Roughly 50 delivery app drivers, part of the advocacy groups We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising, traveled caravan style to the front of Xu’s house in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. 

The incident underscored the widening gap between wealthy Silicon Valley startup executives, and the working class contractors whose livelihoods have come to depend on the ubiquitous delivery apps. 

“He's got to step up. He's got to find a way to make us not miserably underpaid and show that he values the people involved in this operation that got him rich,” Rondu Gnatt, a Dasher and organizer with Gig Workers Rising, explained to Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.

The protest was prompted by a recent California Superior Court ruling that found the state’s Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Voters approved it last year after app-based companies spent hundreds of millions in an effort to avoid classifying drivers as full time workers.

The law made all workers, who get jobs on app-based companies like DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft, be classified as independent contractors rather than employees.

“Dasher concerns and feedback are always important to us, and we will continue to hear their voices and engage our community directly,” a DoorDash spokeswoman said in a statement — but added that the protesters “do not speak for the 91% of California Dashers who want to remain independent contractors or the millions of California voters who overwhelmingly supported Proposition 22.”

She added: “The reality is, the passage of Prop 22 has addressed in law many of the concerns raised today through its historic benefits and protections: workers earn 120% of their local minimum wage per active hour in addition to 100% of their tips, receive free PPE, and enjoy access to healthcare funds.”

'This is not a numbers game'

Tony Xu, co-founder and CEO of DoorDash speaks at the WSJTECH live conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S. October 22, 2019.    REUTERS/ Mike Blake
Tony Xu, co-founder and CEO of DoorDash speaks at the WSJTECH live conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S. October 22, 2019. REUTERS/ Mike Blake

However, COVID-19 and recent extreme weather have underscored the plight of gig workers who have been deemed as essential employees, providing services to more upscale consumers who have remained at home during the pandemic.

“This is not a number’s game,” Gnatt told Yahoo Finance. “You can't treat people like data points, we matter, the customers matter, the restaurants matter.”

Meanwhile, some drivers say they’ve had to manage the pressure of driving in unsafe conditions. More recently, videos swirled on social media of delivery drivers in New York City during Hurricane Ida as an example of some of the conditions drivers feel compelled to accept.

After DoorDash went public in December and app-based delivery demand exploded in the wake of COVID-19, it helped make Xu one of 2020’s most handsomely compensated corporate executives.

That’s gone down badly with gig workers, who have demanded the platform show them their tips before they agree to deliver an order. They’re also asking DoorDash to provide 120% of minimum wage, to stop unfair deactivations and provide free personal protective equipment, as well as adequate pay for car and equipment sanitizing.

DoorDash drivers say they want to get paid for the time they are active, for example, actively driving to pick up or drop off food orders rather than when they’re online waiting for gigs to come through.

“It should be depending on the time and distance, but they pre determined what you're going to get paid. So like any factors such as traffic, the restaurant not having the food ready on time, all this you're expected to take a loss,” Gnatt said.

In response, DoorDash defined its practices, and said that base pay is calculated based on estimated time, distance, and desirability of an order.

Meanwhile, Dashers can expect to earn a base pay between $2 to $10+, according to DoorDash’s website. But some drivers say they have gotten as low as $3 per hour.

“They call us contractors and they say, we have the choice. We only have the choice to say yes or no to an order,” Gnatt countered. “You want $3 or you want nothing.”

Workers have also demanded to know how much they will make in tips before accepting or declining an order.

At the same time, Dashers can keep 100% of their tips but the app only shows a guaranteed minimum amount and doesn’t show them how much the customer has tipped unless the driver accepts the order.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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