‘We built this company’: Workers at Philly-based Gopuff mount one-day strike

'GoPuff keep saying that we make between $15-25 an hour,' said Candace Hinson, 29, who works at the company's Manayunk facility. 'They do not tell the media that they do not reimburse us for mileage. They do not give us anything for gas. They don't cover car repair.'  (Liz Tung/WHYY)

'GoPuff keep saying that we make between $15-25 an hour,' said Candace Hinson, 29, who works at the company's Manayunk facility. 'They do not tell the media that they do not reimburse us for mileage. They do not give us anything for gas. They don't cover car repair.' (Liz Tung/WHYY)

Dozens of employees for Philadelphia-based delivery company Gopuff gathered outside the company’s headquarters in Northern Liberties on Tuesday to protest what they say are unfair working conditions, ranging from falling pay to safety concerns.

“We built this company,” said Barbara Evans, 68, who’s worked for Gopuff for three-and-a-half years. “We worked hard. All we want is to be treated fair. That’s all we want.”

The protest came as part of a one-day strike by Gopuff workers nationwide. Protesters articulated three demands: increased pay; flexible access to shifts, along with a minimum number of hours for all drivers; and protection from unwarranted “deactivation” — Gopuff’s term for termination.

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A common complaint among protesters was that Gopuff workers earn much less than the company advertises.

“Gopuff keeps saying that we make between $15 and 25 an hour,” said Candace Hinson, 29, who works at the company’s Manayunk facility. “They do not tell the media that they do not reimburse us for mileage. They do not give us anything for gas. They don’t cover car repair. ”

All of that, Hinson said, comes out of workers’ pay — in addition to the cost of smartphones with sufficient data, which is a requirement of the job.

“What do we have left?” Hinson said. “A lot of us suffer from food insecurity because we have to make sure we have somewhere to live and then we have to make sure we have a vehicle to drive to get the money to live.”

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Many of the workers said Gopuff wasn’t always this way.

“I started at Gopuff because my previous job, it was becoming really bad,” said Bradleigh Aeh, who drove from Athens, Ohio to participate in the protest in Philadelphia. “I went to Gopuff and I doubled my money — more than doubled. And then after two months, my pay was cut in more than half due to lack of accessibility to shifts and overhiring.”

Bradleigh Aeh drove to Philadelphia from Athens, OH to participate in the protest. She quit her restaurant job to work at GoPuff — a move she regrets. ‘I quit it after a month because of the stability that Gopuff provided. And then that was ripped away, and I’m back to scraping by again.’ (Liz Tung/WHYY)

Barbara Evans had a similar story.

“We were making good money,” she said. “But now, you have people that put in 82 hours and don’t even make $1,000. And three years ago, I used to make that in under 35 hours.”

In response to a request for comment on the protest, a Gopuff spokesperson said, “Delivery partners with Gopuff earn an average of $18 to $25 per hour, which is among the highest in the industry. Nearly 70% of delivery partners choose to deliver less than 20 hours a week. For anyone looking for a guaranteed salary and schedule, Gopuff provides full and part-time employment with benefits in every market we operate.”

The spokesperson also claimed the protesters represent a minority of drivers — nearly 70% of which the company says are satisfied working for Gopuff.

Gopuff slashed its minimum hourly pay rate this past summer — shortly, protesters pointed out, after it raised $1 billion in investments.

At local warehouses, protesters said, they saw their hourly rate fall from $12 to $7.75.

Making things more difficult is the fact that to improve speed, workers say Gopuff has been limiting the number of “bags,” or deliveries per driver.

“Typically, if there’s several drivers we’ll each get one bag and they just started doing that towards the end of the summer, one bag per driver,” said Ronald Moody, 56. “The minimum used to be two bags. One bag makes it less economical for drivers to do that, especially if it’s outside of their area.”

Barbara Evans, 68, was robbed this summer while on a delivery for GoPuff. ‘I got an email saying, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and I have yet to hear anything else from GoPuff,’ she said. (Liz Tung/WHYY)

In fact, Moody said, he once made only 46 cents on a 40 minute delivery, once he accounted for gas.

“What I tried to do is show the dispatchers and point it out many times that I’ve earned 46 cents from you, Gopuff, for my 40 minutes of service to your customer,” Moody said. “Tell me how that makes sense.”

Gopuff hasn’t been responsive to workers’ concerns, protesters said — whether they have to do with pay, safety, or run-of-the-mill problems.

“They have a complete lack of response to any of our concerns,” Aeh said. “Hundreds of dollars missing? No response. Can’t log into the app to schedule a shift? No response for a month. How are you supposed to live if you can’t work for one month because they don’t respond?”

Evans said she received a minimal response from Gopuff after she was robbed this past summer on a delivery.

“I had to go all the way back to the warehouse because I had no connection to call anybody before I could make a police report,” Evans said. “And that’s where I made the police report at the warehouse. And I have yet — I got an email saying, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and I have yet to hear anything else from Gopuff.”

Jesus Santana, 37, broke his ankle on a delivery last February after slipping on black ice.

“I slipped backwards and I landed on my ankle — I sat on it and I snapped,” Santana said. “I made it home that night. I had to crawl from where I parked my car all the way to my house. It was the worst, worst day of my life so far.”

Jesus Santana, 37, broke his ankle on a delivery last February after slipping on black ice. GoPuff paid him some worker’s compensation — but not enough. ‘They weren’t paying me my full paycheck,’ Santana said. ‘So it was really hard to make ends meet.’ (Liz Tung/WHYY)

Santana ended up receiving some worker’s compensation from Gopuff, but Santana said it wasn’t enough.

“They weren’t paying me my full paycheck,” Santana said. “So it was really hard to make ends meet.”

Moody says it’s difficult raising concerns with Gopuff — the closest they get, he says, is online surveys the company sometimes sends out.

“You want to get answers, but maybe you’re not even asking the right questions and you can’t possibly get all your information from just data,” Moody said. “There were several times where they tried a program. It may have worked a little bit, may have needed to be tweaked, but because you don’t talk to us drivers.”

Hinson agreed.

“I think the main thing we want is to be a part of decisions that actually affect us the most,” she said. “Like, there’s no reason why you’re not talking to your drivers when you’re making decisions that are going to directly impact them.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comment from Gopuff.

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