On-demand delivery company Gopuff, which has raised millions — and then billions — of dollars in venture capital in the last two years, is at the center of a new petition signed by a few dozen drivers calling for better pay practices and clarification around their role within the Spring Garden Street-headquartered company.
Gopuff’s drivers are independent contractors who pick up orders from one of the company’s hundreds of “micro-fulfillment” centers across the U.S. and deliver to customers in 30 minutes or less. Through the petition, they’re calling for higher wages, pay and schedule transparency, clarified relationships with managers, an end to “unwarranted deactivations,” and mandatory arbitration agreements.
The company has grown quickly in the last several years. In 2018 and 2019, it announced a new Philly HQ, expanded to new cities and raised $750 million from SoftBank. In 2020, it raised millions more, increased demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic and acquired BevMo!, a California-based alcohol retailer.
In 2021, the company hit unicorn status with a $1.15 billion raise and an $8.9 billion valuation, and continued to acquire smaller companies while expanding to more U.S. locations. Gopuff currently serves customers in more than 800 cities, with more than 450 micro-fulfillment centers. A media kit counts 8,000 employees.
The company is constantly hiring drivers, saying they get paid for the full amount of each order and all tips. The company also says drivers can work as much or as little and “whenever” they want.
But in the petition, drivers claim their independent contractor status is unlike those at other gig-based companies like Uber. They say they can be terminated from the app for missing a shift or refusing an order, and that the pay structure promised when signing up doesn’t always prove to be true. This dynamic is at the root of the issues outlined in the petition.
“Keeping a warehouse staffed is tricky for an app that uses independent contractors as drivers,” the petition states. “GoPuff’s solution is to simply treat us like we aren’t independent contractors at all. As GoPuff drivers, we work on set shifts, have no ability to reject orders, and even report to managers who control every almost aspect of our work, from what jobs we get to whether we’re fired.”
Vice spoke to a handful of drivers, like Ray, a GoPuff driver in Virginia, who said drivers in that region bid for weekly shifts all at once, and that they’re usually snatched up in a few minutes.
“It’s cutthroat as fuck,” he told Vice. “You have 20 to 30 drivers fighting for 20 to 25 shifts.”
The petition calls for true flexibility in scheduling, the ability to actually work as much or as little as drivers would like, and the ability to turn down orders if needed. Manager relationships at Gopuff warehouses go against the traditional independent contractor route, the drivers say, and favoritism and discrimination plays into who gets what orders.
“We do gig work because we need flexibility — and that’s what GoPuff advertises to us,” the petition reads.
Some workers told Vice that drivers can earn upwards of $1,000 a week driving for Gopuff, but slower weeks lead to hourly wages that are often less than minimum wage.
At least four drivers from Philly, based at micro-fulfillment centers in University City, Queen Village, Northeast Philadelphia and Manayunk, signed the petition.
A spokesperson for Gopuff told Technical.ly that the company’s more than 8,000 employees do not include “driver partners,” who are independent contractors; they did not say how many driver partners work with Gopuff. The spokesperson told Technical.ly that driver partners choose if and when to work, but can reserve a period of time if they’re looking to plan further ahead, and that driver partners are allowed to miss reserved sessions or ignore delivery options during this scheduled time. In a small number of markets where local alcohol delivery laws apply, Gopuff employs drivers to facilitate the delivery of alcohol, they said.
The spokesperson said Gopuff does not have a comment on the petition at this time.
Are you a driver for Gopuff and want to comment on this petition? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.-30-