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Using the slogan ‘Gopuff yourself,’ company drivers plan a 24-hour strike over pay

The planned strike comes during a wider debate about the gig economy. Drivers for companies including Uber and Lyft have demanded better pay and working conditions.

A Gopuff delivery driver picks-up an order at the Manayunk store on Friday, August 20, 2021.
A Gopuff delivery driver picks-up an order at the Manayunk store on Friday, August 20, 2021.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Hundreds of Gopuff drivers across the country plan to strike Tuesday to demand better pay and working conditions, escalating a labor dispute between the fast-growing delivery service and many of its gig workers.

Drivers who deliver beer, snacks, and toiletries from dozens of facilities will refuse to work for 24 hours, said Sage Wilson, a spokesperson for the pro-labor group Working Washington, which has organized drivers. Dozens of drivers are expected to demonstrate outside Gopuff’s Philadelphia headquarters near Third and Spring Garden Streets, he added.

It’s not clear exactly how many drivers will participate. Dozens of facilities would make up a fraction of the firm’s 500 fulfillment centers nationwide. But the strike would be the most significant action yet by drivers who are mostly independent contractors. Organizers of the strike said even a relatively small number of unfilled shifts could disrupt Gopuff’s promise of half-hour deliveries.

This summer Gopuff slashed minimum hourly pay rates that it guarantees scheduled drivers, called subsidies, and recently reduced some bonuses for delivering higher numbers of orders. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia-based company has raised billions of dollars from investors and expanded across the globe, launching in the United Kingdom earlier this month.

“We’re human and we deserve to be paid for the effort that we put in,” said Candace Hinson, a driver for Gopuff’s Manayunk facility who is helping organize the strike. “We deserve for all of us to be compensated appropriately.”

The company said it was listening to its drivers and working to improve conditions. Drivers earn $18 to $25 an hour on average, “which is among the highest in the industry,” according to a company spokesperson.

Drivers are paid through a combination of commissions, tips, subsidies, and other incentives. Gopuff has previously said it adjusts driver compensation based on supply and demand in the markets where it operates.

Among other things, drivers want Gopuff to increase their “subsidy” — the guaranteed hourly rate that drivers earn if there are few orders during a scheduled shift — to $20 an hour plus the cost of mileage. They’re asking for a guaranteed minimum number of hours. Drivers currently take shifts on a first-come, first-serve basis, leaving some without any, Hinson said. In addition, the gig workers want more transparency about causes for termination.

Gopuff is working to increase transparency around terminating drivers, according to the company. It has rolled out a partnership meant to enroll drivers in Affordable Care Act health-care plans and said it will soon offer discounts for fuel, phone, and vehicle maintenance.

» READ MORE: ACA marketplace enrollment is open. Here’s what is new this year.

“Nearly 70% of delivery partners choose to deliver less than 20 hours a week,” the spokesperson added. Referring to the company’s warehouses, she added: “For anyone looking for a guaranteed salary and schedule, Gopuff provides full and part-time employment with benefits in every market we operate.”

The planned strike comes during a wider debate about the gig economy. Drivers for companies including Uber and Lyft have demanded better pay and working conditions.

But gig firms generally argue their drivers are independent contractors who don’t have the job rights guaranteed to employees, such as a minimum wage or overtime.

Unlike employees, independent contractors don’t have the same legal protections from being fired for organizing activities, said Sophia Lee, a University of Pennsylvania professor of employment law. But whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is not something the company can simply decide by slapping a label on them, she added. That classification would ultimately be up to a judge.

Gopuff has said the vast majority of its workers earn more than the minimum guaranteed rates that it cut this year in facilities across the country. But Philadelphia drivers said the company’s changes have resulted in less overall pay.

» READ MORE: As Philly-based GoPuff goes global, its delivery drivers demand better pay and work conditions

In Manayunk, Gopuff cut the hourly earnings floor from $12 to $7.75 in September, according to company emails. Much like similar cuts that occurred in Passyunk Square during the summer, Gopuff said the $12 rate was only temporary. But a May email never mentioned that the higher rate wasn’t permanent when it was established. A weekly bonus for delivering 120 orders dropped from $110 to $75 in Manayunk, too, according to smartphone screenshots. An October company email told drivers that the bonuses can now change weekly.

“Why would you insult drivers like that?” said Ronald Moody, a Manyaunk driver and strike organizer. “They’ve done strategically different things to change how you compensate drivers.”

» READ MORE: GoPuff leaves busy Philly site where neighbors railed about its traffic

He said the rally outside the company’s headquarters will be titled “Gopuff yourself.” The slogan is not just a way to subtly curse at the company.

“Do better at treating your drivers better,” he said. “Otherwise, you will need to do your own deliveries.”