Delivery Workers Need to Pee: Citywide Legislation to Follow Controversial CB7 Comments

  Last modified on January 21st, 2022

During a CB7 Transportation Committee meeting on April 13, committee member Ken Coughlin introduced a resolution that would make it mandatory for restaurants to allow bathroom access for their gig delivery workers when they arrive to pick up food orders. The resolution, “Let Our Workers Go!” was met with harsh rebuke by fellow board members, one calling it “crazy” multiple times.

In the meeting, Coughlin proclaimed “They risked their lives for us over the past year, so we didn’t have to risk our lives going outside. They deserve better. We need to start treating them as if their lives and their working conditions mattered. And bathroom access is as good a place as any to start.”

Coughlin went on to say that restaurants who don’t allow delivery riders bathroom access should be re-examined when they come back before the board to gain (non-binding) support for their liquor or sidewalk café licenses, noting this kind of behavior could lead to a denial.

Fellow committee members didn’t share Coughlin’s sentiment. “I was horrified when I read this resolution. It’s horrifying on all levels,” said Barbara Adler. “This resolution is embarrassing to CB7. This is not something we want out there. Just awful. … You can’t force a restaurateur to let someone use the bathroom if they’re opposed to it. The whole thing is asinine.”

Another board member, Josh Cohen, used the word “crazy” three times to describe Coughlin’s resolution while Linda Alexander said cleaning bathrooms is too much to ask of small business owners who are trying to get by, shifting the blame towards the city and the third-party apps delivery workers and restaurants use, like Postmates, Uber Eats and Grubhub.

A delivery worker told The City in a 2020 article, “We’re what’s driving their income right now,” in regards to the restaurants he was delivering for during the pandemic. “But they discriminate against us. We can’t use their bathroom. They cast us aside and ignore us. … They treat us like we’re insects.”

Sara Lind, a CB7 Transportation Committee member who’s running for City Council, overtly defended Coughlin, saying the measure “is not demonizing the restaurants” but merely treating workers with respect.

The “Let Our Workers Go!” resolution wound being tabled for a later date so a proper hearing could be held to allow app delivery workers and restauranteurs a chance to testify before the board takes action.

Coughlin reflected on the meeting afterward. “I have no idea what the big deal is. I think the ‘big deal’ is that they don’t want restaurants to be forced to allow delivery workers to use their bathrooms, for reasons I can only speculate on at this point.”

But early this morning, it was announced that a citywide resolution is expected to be introduced before Coughlin’s resolution is revisited.

Gothamist reports that on Thursday, a set of six new bills will be introduced to address the issues facing the city’s delivery workers, including legislation which would require restaurants to allow their app based delivery workers to use their restrooms or face a fine. The bill is being sponsored by East Village Council Member Carlina Rivera.

Linda Alexander left a comment below to share her perspective; in case you haven’t seen it, we’ll leave it here, too:

“The majority of the restaurants on the UWS, many of which are privately-owned small businesses, have always given bathroom access to delivery workers, whether they are staff, third party bike delivery personnel, produce delivery/truck drivers, etc. The person who wrote the original Transportation Committee resolution, which included a sentence demanding non-compliant restaurants lose their liquor licenses, has not yet identified any of the restaurants refusing bathroom access, nor any of the complainants, despite repeated requests for sources from fellow board members. Only three people on the Transportation committee that night supported the resolution as originally written, and all are members of a special interest group, including one who is running for city council. The piece was initially written as a blog by a former journalist who is now a communications consultant for the special interest group, which is why it reads more like a campaign pitch than a true analysis of a citywide problem. There is no disputing our city needs to provide more and better public facilities for all residents and businesses. But on the UWS, we have a proud history of taking care of the folks who take care of us! There may be a few exceptions, but on the whole, our restaurants should be celebrated for doing their part to help all workers – even in a pandemic.”

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