On Tuesday the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to extend a pandemic policy that gives some app-based and gig workers the right to paid sick time. The first-in-the-nation policy, introduced by Council Member Teresa Mosqueda, comes just in the nick of time. If the council did not act by the end of the month, the workers would have lost their right to sick time as the state legislation ends.
Joelle Craft, who finds work on Rover, usually has to miss a day of work once a month to get an infusion to treat her multiple sclerosis. If she cancels a day of dog walking, it could cost her $100. But, since she mostly pet-sits over multiple days, she sometimes has to cancel a whole week of work for just one day off. This could cost her $600. Paid sick time is essential to Craft.
Unfortunately, Mosqueda’s bill doesn’t include workers like Craft.
Because Council Member Andrew Lewis gutted his own minimum wage policy last spring, the City’s definition of gig worker leaves out "marketplace workers" or gig workers that schedule jobs ahead of time on apps such as Rover and TaskRabbit.
At the time, marketplace workers expressed their disappointment in Lewis and the council. One TaskRabbit worker told The Stranger, “I expect this from Nelson and Pedersen, but from Lewis, who cosponsored the bill, this is really disappointing… It’s weird, it’s confusing, it’s a betrayal.”
Council Members Lisa Herbold and Mosqueda also thought Lewis’s amendment to exclude workers sucked, but since they did not have the votes to stop it, they added a directive for the City to analyze how it could extend basic worker’ protections to those marketplace workers.
Theoretically, Mosqueda could have included the marketplace workers in her legislation. However she told The Stranger she “wanted to be in alignment” with the City’s current definition of gig worker and the study to include the rest of them.
Workers like Uber drivers and food delivery workers will get sick time immediately to avoid a gap when the state legislation sunsets. A few other workers who did not previously have sick time will get it in January, when the minimum wage starts. But leaving out marketplace workers, who were not included in the state policy, continues an existing inequality among gig workers.
Mosqueda hopes to see the report to fix the problem sometime in the summer, which will give her enough time to allocate money in the budget to enforce the new labor standards. She said it would be “problematic” if the report takes until fall because the next City Council could do whatever they want with the report’s findings. Plus, the timing could foil Lewis’s plan to enact protections for all workers at the same time.
Even though the current policy does not immediately include her, Craft still sees it as a huge victory.
“Every step is a step forward,” Craft said in a phone interview. “There’s stuff we need to work on, obviously, but the City Council knows I’m not going anywhere until we’re all protected.”