Skip to main content

First essential, then 'devalued': Gig workers don't want to return to ebb and flow of wages

caption: Carmen Figueroa drives for Grubhub.
Enlarge Icon
Carmen Figueroa drives for Grubhub.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Wages ebb and flow in the gig economy, where workers pick up odd jobs on apps like DoorDash and Grubhub.

Sometimes, the money’s good. But with gig work, there’s no minimum wage.

This summer, the Seattle City Council will try to remedy that.

Gig workers aren’t paid hourly. They’re paid by the job.

Carmen Figueroa is one of those gig workers; she delivers food for Grubhub .

She’s been watching her wages decline lately – as people have cut down on their tips.

“I just don’t feel like the work that gig workers do is valued. We were valued a lot during the pandemic – but now that the pandemic is over, I feel like people are devaluing us again.”

Gig work offers flexibility, but the pay isn’t reliable. One of the Seattle City Council’s big projects this summer will be to develop new laws that make sure gig workers earn something closer to minimum wage.

The Council's opening salvo came Monday, when it unanimously passed a bill requiring more transparency and detail about what gig workers will earn for performing any given task. The bill now awaits the mayor's signature.

Last year, the Council and the mayor went through a similar process to raise wages for Uber and Lyft drivers. Many experts saw that effort as practice for this year's project, aimed at the wider gig economy as a whole.

In a statement to KUOW, DoorDash claimed its workers make, on average, $25 an hour, tips included. But in a Facebook ad the company posted in 2020, DoorDash claimed "dashers" can earn "up to $20 per hour." And recent Craigslist ads running in Seattle claim dashers can earn up to $21 or $22 per hour.

In general, Seattle's approach of raising wages to compensate for unpaid time spent on the app hustling for work has more successfully withstood legal and public scrutiny than approaches in other places aimed at reclassifying gig workers as employees, rather than independent contractors.

This story has been updated to include references to DoorDash's Facebook and Craigslist ads.

Why you can trust KUOW