Bill would force NYC restaurants to let delivery workers use bathroom

Give ’em a break!

New York City restaurants would have to allow delivery workers to use their bathrooms under a new bill set to be introduced in the City Council next week.

The city’s 80,000-odd food couriers spend as much as 12 hours or more per day hauling pizzas and pad Thai around the Big Apple, typically by e-bike — but many of the restaurants they service are unwilling to let them use the facilities, they said at a rally to promote the bill on Tuesday.

“I went to this restaurant and asked to use the bathroom. They said, ‘No that’s only for customers,’” one worker, an immigrant from Mali name Mamadou, told reporters during the event. “So I had to go outside in between cars. It was very very discomforting for me.”

The pee-proposal, sponsored by Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), would exempt eateries “where accessing the bathroom would create a health or safety risk” — like walking through a kitchen.

“The New York City Hospitality Alliance has been working with restaurants to encourage them to provide bathroom access, and hundreds have been happy to do so, but many others have not,” she said at the rally, where she was joined by workers from collective Los Deliveristas Unidos.

“Delivery workers have been some of the most essential in our city. For over a year they have put their lives at risk to provide for their families, and keep millions of New Yorkers fed throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Los Deliveristas Unidos formed last year amid a rise of violence and e-bike theft in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group held a march in October for stronger worker protections and more support from the NYPD — drawing the attention of Rivera and her colleagues, who plan to propose six bills based on the group’s demands.

Besides the bathroom bill, council members want to require delivery app companies to enable non-bank payment options, pay workers at least once per week, allow workers to set non-negotiable maximum delivery distances — and to provide them with insulated delivery bags.

Other bills would force the city to set minimum per-trip wages and mandate restaurants to disclose to customers how much workers make from tips and gratuities on their orders.

food delivery workers nyc bathrooms
City Council has several bills on the table to help NYC’s delivery workforce.
Christopher Sadowski

New York City’s delivery industry has boomed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with one app — UberEats — adding 30,000 new delivery people in the last year alone, according to Maria Figueroa of the Cornell University-School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The total number of delivery workers in the city has spiked from 50,000 just three years ago to a least 80,000 today, Figueroa said.

Rivera said the six bills have the support of Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan).

Delivery workers also face significant threats of violence — most recently on Sunday, when a 29-year-old delivery man was struck by a stray bullet when another man was gunned down on the grounds of a Brooklyn NYCHA complex.