Delivery drivers unionizing in Colorado – Westword | CarTailz

Sandra Parker-Murray has been a union member with the Communications Workers of America for 25 years. Until September, she worked at Avaya, a corporate communications company, as a services coordinator.

The job brought her from Atlanta to Denver in 2008, and it would have taken her to Oklahoma that year if she had followed the company. Instead, she stayed in Denver and worked as a DoorDash driver, switching her CWA membership to Colorado Independent Drivers United, a burgeoning ridesharing, delivery, pedicab, cab, and limo driver union.

DoorDash runs can’t replace all of her income, but they will keep her going while she decides what to do next, she says. She also works for CIDU and will campaign for various employee rights issues in the next legislative period.

Parker-Murray says she’s glad she can still be a union member despite this transition. She was harassed and intimidated by a manager early in her career, she explains, and the CWA helped protect her. She later became a union representative.

Her next union-related project is to help get CIDU off the ground. “I love to drive and not have to report to anyone, but I just wish they respected and valued you more,” she says.

Grocery drivers like Parker-Murray are themselves responsible for their car’s maintenance, fuel, and schedule. While this gives them some flexibility, they are not treated as true independent contractors; Instead, they depend on the app and the policies of the delivery service.

Parker-Murray says she has had issues with almost every aspect of the DoorDash process, from an often faulty navigation system to a failure to track time spent in a drive-thru. And then there’s the fact that it can send her from South Aurora, where she lives, all the way across town to Denver International Airport and back, and she won’t know the destination until she accepts the assignment. While mileage is part of the base rate DoorDash offers drivers for each order, Parker-Murray says the correlation isn’t strong enough to make long trips worthwhile.

Most of the time, she adds, DoorDash pays about $3 a ride, and the rest of her salary is driven by customer recommendations.

CIDU members gathered outside the Colorado Capitol and Public Utilities Commission office in early October. They want the state to introduce policies that limit Uber, Lyft, and other gig-driver companies to no more than 25 percent of profits from each trip or delivery, and require them to charge a $2 gas surcharge per Raise ride who would do this go to the driver.

Among other things, the PUC oversees the Transportation Network Companies Act of 2014, which requires app companies to be transparent to drivers about how fares are calculated and what they are paid for each job. But sometimes drivers are disabled for no reason, they say. According to union members, the companies are not fully transparent about the causes and the PUC has not taken any action.

According to Gail Conners, PUC’s director of media relations, public relations and engagement, the commission has heard 212 cases involving the company that owns Uber since the law passed, but those are just the investigative numbers. “When calls come in, they go through consumer affairs first, and a lot of cases are handled there,” notes Conners. “Many are being mitigated before an investigation is launched.”

Since 2020, when the pandemic hit, there have only been seven investigations into Uber and one into Lyft. Deliveries have since increased, as have driver complaints. CIDU would like the PUC to increase its oversight and speed up its actions.

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Sandra Parker-Murray helps delivery drivers unionize.

Catie Cheshire

A major concern of the union is that drivers do not have the freedom to choose their gigs in the way independent contractors should. Parker-Murray has worked its way up the DoorDash tier — her name for the DoorDash system that rates, promotes, or demotes drivers — since it began shipping in 2020, but she says it’s not clear how the tier ratings are determined .

Early on, she was restricted to her home delivery area in Aurora, where she typically begins her streaks. Now she can take more slots, but if she refuses too many orders, she could be demoted a level. She wants to turn down purchase orders that involve locating specific items in a grocery store as these jobs are time consuming and cost no more than typical delivery orders, but she sometimes has to accept them to keep her internal score high.

“They don’t tell you how much it drops off or how that works,” says Parker-Murray, so she’s always guessing.

Stephanie Vigil, a food delivery organizer for CIDU and running for home district 16, cites so-called “unicorn orders” as an example of DoorDash’s lack of transparency. Sometimes, the app places an order that offers potential revenue of the dollar amount “plus,” she notes; At the end of the ride, the driver learns how much he has earned, and it is always more than originally promised.

“Nice, right?” Vigil says. “But what they are actually doing is they are turning this – which should be a matter of informed decision-making – into a slot machine. Then what you end up doing — if you’re one of those people who gets one of those unicorn payments from time to time — is you’re taking a ton of these $6 orders, $4 orders, $3 orders and hope you get them a big payout every now and then.”

On October 19, Parker-Murray received a “unicorn order” promising her $7.50 for Urban Sombrero pickup and delivery. By this time she had worked nearly an hour and a half without turning down an assignment; She ended up making $12.50 on the trip, almost $4 more than any other delivery that day, because the customer tipped $9 and DoorDash contributed $3.50.

As she completed the order, a notification from DoorDash popped up explaining that her high acceptance rate and customer rating made her priority for the order.

Vigil suggests that drivers should be better informed about how their actions change their classification and how much they cover per trip. Striving for priority on these “unicorn jobs” entices drivers to take jobs they otherwise wouldn’t do.

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DoorDash has multiple DashMart locations in Denver, brick-and-mortar convenience stores that offer delivery only.

Catie Cheshire

“Dashers deserve their voices to be heard, which is why we’ve always created channels to get their feedback,” DoorDash said in a statement west word. “Dashers have consistently told us they value DoorDash’s flexibility and high earning potential. We will continue to work with our community while supporting policies and products that best serve Dashers, merchants and customers.”

Vigil predicts that more people will have such jobs over time, so organizing and standing up for these workers is important. She has worked as a baker, nanny and driver for years and says if elected she hopes to give a voice to the people who make up a large part of Colorado’s economy.

“Some basics should be in place,” says Vigil. “I have a say in the system. My time is valuable. I run my own work. These are fair principles to work with. … Drivers should be able to have a say in the system. It cannot simply be managed from the top down.”

Unlike many union members, CIDU members do not share a common workplace or employer. They probably won’t have a collective agreement either. Rather, CIDU is a way for drivers to come together to advocate for better working conditions across the industry, says Vigil.

While she definitely wants better working conditions for delivery drivers, Parker-Murray says she learned some valuable information on the job, including which places typically have clean bathrooms (Wingstop and Panda Express) and which places to avoid are (all grocery stores). She’s also concluded that ordering a drink through DoorDash is risky.

Drivers often have to fill up the drinks themselves without washing their hands or wearing gloves like restaurant workers would, pressing on the lids. “What if my hands were ugly?” she asks.

Parker-Murray often meets other delivery drivers and tries to get them involved in the union – but many are afraid to campaign for better working conditions because they don’t want to give up the benefits of being a gig worker. “They will take the unfair treatment because they like the flexibility, but that’s what it is [the companies] use to discourage people from complaining,” says Parker-Murray. “People think they’re doing them a favor.”

Joining a union will pay off, she tells them. “It protects your job,” she says. “Because people might not like you. They could be too light or too dark, too thick or too thin. They just have their reasons because they’re human, and human beings can be horrible human beings sometimes.”

But people can also be good people, she adds, which is why she enjoys the job. She just wants it to work with good rules too.

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