Seattle voters overwhelmingly oppose weakening the PayUp ordinance, NPI poll finds

Three-fifths of Seat­tle vot­ers are opposed to pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would sig­nif­i­cant­ly weak­en the PayUp ordi­nance the city adopt­ed with­in the past few years to increase wages and pro­vide work­er pro­tec­tions for deliv­ery dri­vers, a new city­wide poll con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and its allies has found.

Asked if they sup­port­ed or opposed repeal­ing part of the Seat­tle law that pro­vides min­i­mum pay stan­dards and work­place pro­tec­tions for app-based deliv­ery dri­vers work­ing for com­pa­nies like Door­Dash and Instacart, with the goal of low­er­ing high deliv­ery fees, 60% of our respon­dents said they were opposed. Only 18% expressed support. 

Anoth­er 22% said they were not sure. 

Our sur­vey, which field­ed last week, also asked about the city’s upcom­ing trans­porta­tion levy, anoth­er weighty mat­ter now before the Coun­cil. We pub­lished our levy-relat­ed find­ings ear­li­er this week, pre­ced­ing the Coun­cil’s first meet­ing to dis­cuss the may­or’s pro­pos­al. To inves­ti­gate vot­er atti­tudes towards the leg­is­la­tion that would weak­en PayUp, we part­nered with our friends at Work­ing Wash­ing­ton, who have been orga­niz­ing for years in sup­port of stronger pro­tec­tions for work­ers, includ­ing deliv­ery drivers. 

The PayUp ordi­nance is so named because its intent is to get com­pa­nies that employ gig work­ers to step up and do right by the peo­ple who are pro­vid­ing the labor that is cre­at­ing their prof­its. Com­pa­nies like Door­Dash don’t like the law and would like to roll it back. They have found an ally in Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Sara Nel­son, the cofounder of Fre­mont Brew­ing, who is one of two at-large mem­bers of the cur­rent city council.

As Busi­ness Insid­er put it in an arti­cle that ran ear­li­er today:

Since Jan­u­ary, gig deliv­ery work­ers in Seat­tle have been reap­ing the ben­e­fits of a local law man­dat­ing a cer­tain pay lev­el. Just months lat­er, they could see their incomes cut under pro­posed revisions.

PayUp, which took effect in the city in Jan­u­ary, requires Door­Dash, Uber, Instacart, Grub­hub, and oth­er deliv­ery apps to pay inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors the equiv­a­lent of the city’s $19.97 min­i­mum wage — a rule that the app com­pa­nies have opposed.

But CB 120775, a pro­pos­al intro­duced last month by Seat­tle City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Sara Nel­son, would low­er the min­i­mum pay for dri­vers and roll back pro­tec­tions for work­ers, accord­ing to a draft of the legislation.

Under the pro­pos­al, gig work­ers would be paid an hourly rate of $19.97 for their time spent retriev­ing and deliv­er­ing orders. While that seems con­sis­tent with Seat­tle’s min­i­mum wage for employ­ees, the gig work­ers cov­ered by the PayUp law are only paid for “active time” spent work­ing on orders — mean­ing that time spent try­ing to claim an order is uncom­pen­sat­ed. They’re also respon­si­ble for their own costs, such as gas.

Those aspects of the job had led Seat­tle’s city coun­cil to cre­ate a sys­tem that pays work­ers based on the miles they dri­ve and the min­utes they spend on the job. PayUp also demands that no offer pays less than $5.

The lat­est pro­pos­al would do away with that $5 min­i­mum and the per-minute pay­ment. Instead, gig work­ers would get paid 35 cents per mile — down from the cur­rent 74 cents.

It would also elim­i­nate or cut back oth­er pro­tec­tions for gig work­ers in the city. For exam­ple, a PayUp rule giv­ing work­ers two min­utes to review an order before accept­ing it would shrink to 45 seconds.

The bill is sched­uled for a com­mit­tee vote on Thurs­day. If it pass­es, the pro­pos­al could face a vote by the full Coun­cil on May 21.

The Seat­tle Times and KING5 have also recent­ly report­ed on Nel­son’s proposal. 

City Hall reporter David Kro­man wrote about it for the Times on April 26th and pro­vid­ed a good, fac­tu­al, neu­tral­ly word­ed expla­na­tion of what the ordi­nance would do. We liked that expla­na­tion so much that we incor­po­rat­ed it into our question. 

Here’s the ques­tion in its entire­ty and the responses:

QUESTION: The Seat­tle City Coun­cil is con­sid­er­ing repeal­ing part of the PayUp law that pro­vides min­i­mum pay stan­dards and work­place pro­tec­tions for app-based deliv­ery dri­vers work­ing for com­pa­nies like Door­Dash and Instacart, with the goal of low­er­ing high deliv­ery fees. The Coun­cil President’s pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would:

  • Cut the hourly rate to rough­ly 33 cents per minute and 35 cents per mile, below the IRS’s per-mile reim­burse­ment rate for vehi­cle wear and tear of 67 cents
  • Make it so dri­vers would not be paid for trips can­celed by the customer
  • Return more pow­er to the com­pa­nies, allow­ing them to more eas­i­ly lim­it work­er access to the plat­forms, lim­it hours, gar­nish tips, and more
  • Elim­i­nate dri­vers’ abil­i­ty to sue the com­pa­nies over alleged labor violations

Do you sup­port or oppose the pro­posed legislation?

RESPONSES:

  • Sup­port: 18% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 8%
    • Some­what sup­port: 10%
  • Oppose: 60%
    • Some­what oppose: 17%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 43%
  • Not sure: 22% 

The words in the list por­tion of the ques­tion above were tak­en almost ver­ba­tim from Kro­man’s arti­cle. We also made sure to empha­size in the text of our ques­tion that the goal of the leg­is­la­tion is to low­er high deliv­ery fees. As you can see, most Seat­tle vot­ers had a very neg­a­tive reac­tion to what Coun­cilmem­ber Nel­son is propos­ing. They may not like high deliv­ery fees, but they don’t think Nel­son’s leg­is­la­tion is a solu­tion to that problem.

You can also see that not only is there an over­all oppo­si­tion to sup­port ratio of 3‑to‑1, but the per­cent­age who strong­ly oppose the leg­is­la­tion is more than four times greater than the per­cent­age who strong­ly sup­port it. This is clear and com­pelling evi­dence that Nel­son is on the wrong track. The Coun­cil must aban­don this pro­posed legislation.

There’s a much more log­i­cal alter­na­tive course for the Coun­cil to take, and we asked vot­ers to weigh in on that as well, which is cap­ping deliv­ery fees: 

QUESTION: Do you sup­port or oppose cap­ping the amount of deliv­ery fees that deliv­ery apps like Door­Dash and UberEats can pass on to consumers?

RESPONSES:

  • Sup­port: 64% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 50%
    • Some­what sup­port: 14%
  • Oppose: 17%
    • Some­what oppose: 6%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 11%
  • Not sure: 17% 

For read­ers’ aware­ness, the above ques­tion actu­al­ly came first in our sur­vey, pre­ced­ing the longer ques­tion above about Nel­son’s pro­posed ordi­nance. Respon­dents were thus weigh­ing in on the idea of cap­ping deliv­ery fees before they shared their views on the ordi­nance. The sup­port for this alter­na­tive course of action is very strong: close to two-thirds of respon­dents were enthu­si­as­tic, with half of our respon­dents very enthusiastic. 

Our sur­vey of 647 like­ly 2024 Seat­tle gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, April 30th, through Fri­day, May 3rd, 2024. 

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research and has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.1%.

Door­Dash, Instacart, and oth­er com­pa­nies can be expect­ed to strong­ly oppose any effort to lim­it the fees they can charge. And they will. 

But that does­n’t mean the idea should­n’t be pursued. 

Pres­i­dent Biden has made tak­ing on junk fees a big part of his first-term agen­da, and research sug­gests vot­ers absolute­ly love it. Coun­cilmem­ber Nel­son should take note of that. And all of our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives would do well to remem­ber that checks and bal­ances aren’t just a cru­cial facet of our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment — they’re a cru­cial facet of our sys­tem of free enter­prise, too. We need mar­kets to be well-reg­u­lat­ed to ensure that our econ­o­my remains healthy and vibrant well into the future. 

As the late Sen­a­tor Paul Well­stone liked to say, we all do bet­ter when we all do bet­ter.

Andrew Villeneuve

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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