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California Puts DoorDash in Its Crosshairs

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Image: Tibrina Hobson (Getty Images)

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Wednesday announced he filed a motion that would force DoorDash to reclassify delivery workers as employees rather than as independent contractors, a predatory wage system that greatly benefits gig economy employers at the expense of basic protections for the people who work for them.

“We are seeking an immediate end to DoorDash’s illegal behavior of failing to provide delivery workers with basic workplace protections,” Boudin said in a statement. “All three branches of California’s government have already made clear that these workers are employees under California law and entitled to these important safeguards. The failure to provide these workers basic protections puts them at risk, particularly during the COVID pandemic.”


Boudin previously sued the company in June for “unlawfully classifying” its workers as contractors rather than full-time employees. The motion follows a similar blow to gig economy goliaths Uber and Lyft, which were ordered by a judge earlier this week to classify drivers as protected full-time workers in California. Those parasitic enterprises have since threatened to shut down their businesses in the state until November if they don’t get their way, a move that underscores the soulless cowardice of these companies during a goddamn pandemic.

DoorDash didn’t immediately return a request for comment about whether it, too, would halt operations before a November vote on Proposition 22—a ballot initiative it’s helping to fund alongside Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and Postmates—however, a company spokesperson offered the same ass-backward logic similarly used by Uber earlier this week in its own defense of its classification of workers as independent contractors.


“In the midst of one of the deepest economic recessions in our nation’s history, this action by the District Attorney threatens billions of dollars in earnings for California Dashers and revenue for restaurants that rely upon sales from delivery to keep their businesses open,” the DoorDash spokesperson said. “An overwhelming 98% of Dashers tell us that the freedom to choose when and how they work is important, which is why we’re committed to fighting to protect the work they want and are confident that voters will support that independence by voting Yes on Proposition 22 in November.”

When Gizmodo attempted to verify the accuracy (or even sample size) of this claim, a DoorDash spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to provide a copy of the worker survey supporting the 98% figure. Even if, by some grim miracle, this statement is accurate, valuing “freedom” is not the same as, or even distinct from, valuing workplace protections.

DoorDash also has a history of massaging data to further its own agenda.

The argument that employee classification hurts rather than helps its workers—despite the fact that they would have access to rights like overtime, sick leave, and a minimum wage—rings hollow considering the amount of money that DoorDash has dumped, along with its gig economy peers, into getting its way. DoorDash alone has thrown roughly $30 million behind California ballot initiative Proposition 22, the gig economy’s Hail Mary attempt to overturn AB5’s rules and continue classifying app-based delivery drivers as independent contractors with some protections, but not all of those rights that full-time employee classification would afford.


There are also problems with DoorDash’s logic that employee reclassification would detrimentally upend worker earnings. There’s certainly enough work: The pandemic has created an unprecedented demand for delivery, and business is booming (even if real profitability remains elusive). Moreover, like other gig economy titans, the company has had roughly a year to prepare for such a change, as AB5 was made law in September of 2019. The implication that a company with this large of an economic footprint—and a roughly $16 billion valuation—is incapable of allocating resources toward restructuring its business for employee reclassification in California is absurd. Perhaps what DoorDash means to say is that employee reclassification would hurt company earnings, and that it intends to make up the difference by sticking its fingers even deeper into drivers’ pockets

DoorDash has always been a bunch of snakes, but the more it tries to wriggle out of treating its workers with decency the more obvious that’s becoming.