Veronica Barnes, a DoorDash driver, rallied in Pacific Heights on Sept. 2 to demand better pay. <strong>(Kevin Kelleher/Special to The Examiner)</strong>

Veronica Barnes, a DoorDash driver, rallied in Pacific Heights on Sept. 2 to demand better pay. (Kevin Kelleher/Special to The Examiner)

DoorDash drivers knock on CEO’s door to protest wages

‘I want my money, and everybody wants their money!’

By Veronica Irwin

Examiner staff writer

Since Proposition 22 passed last November, angry DoorDash drivers have protested the initiative, saying it keeps them underpaid and overworked. On Thursday, some took their complaints to their CEO’s front door.

About 30 cars parked on a block of Washington Street in Pacific Heights, outside a condominium where they believe the controversial executive, Tony Xu, lives. They were joined by Supervisor Gordon Mar, who spoke in support of the workers.

Most of the food delivery drivers got out of their cars to gather at the end of the street, holding up traffic in the process. Brought together by two organizations, Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress, the protesting drivers’ tensions ran high as they made their case that DoorDash profits were being prioritized over worker livelihoods.

“I’ve worked in every grocery store, and every restaurant, in the whole Bay. Check the record. My name is Veronica Barnes, and I’m sure you can look me up! V-E-R-O-N-I-C-A, last name Barnes!” said one DoorDash driver, turning to face the residence. “I sent you a message on LinkedIn Tony! I want my money, and everybody wants their money!”

DoorDash spent $52.1 million in the campaign for Prop. 22, which aimed to keep drivers independent contractors with limited benefits, and prohibit them from joining a union. A majority of California voters voted yes to that idea in the 2020 election, and the ballot measure immediately became state law.

Later that month, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu was granted stock-based compensation with an estimated value of $413 million tied to the company’s performance goals. When the company had its IPO in December, Xu, who owns 5% of the company’s shares, became a billionaire. According to the San Francisco Business Times, it made him the highest paid CEO in the Bay Area in 2020.

Several protesters emphasized that Prop. 22 was declared unconstitutional by a California Superior Court judge on Aug. 20 — a decision that doesn’t bring immediate changes, but re-energized pro-labor organizers who had largely given up on getting the proposition overturned. The decision began what will likely become a lengthy legal battle going all the way to the state Supreme Court.

Not only were the drivers arguing that they deserved the benefits of being a full-time employee, they also said they deserved more transparency about the company’s pay structure. Sameer Sharma said he often makes nearly $1,000 worth of deliveries a week, and is paid less than $100. With a baby at home, his wife, Rajni, began driving for DoorDash, too, to supplement their income.

“He was working seven days a week, I started asking him, ‘Where’s the money? Where are you, and who are you with?’” said Rajni.

But DoorDash says that 91% of drivers surveyed last year wanted to remain independent contractors, and supported Prop 22. The firm also said that Xu has not been paid any of compensation yet because his salary is “forward-looking,” based on the company’s ability to beat rigorous performance standards.

One Prop. 22 supporter is driver Jacqueline Cancino, who depends on the flexibility provided by being an independent contractor. “DoorDash is the best thing I can afford to do, because I have a kid who I need to take care of,” she says.

The protest wasn’t the first time Gig Workers Rising and We Drive Progress members made their voices heard. The organizations have led several protests in the past year, directing efforts toward gig companies such as DoorDash, Uber and Lyft.

Until a final decision is reached in the legal battle over Prop. 22, however, DoorDash drivers in California will remain independent contractors. Though Thursday’s fight was in the streets, the final punch will happen in the courts.

virwin@sfexaminer.com

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