Jersey City Council approves e-bike delivery licensing ordinance in 7-1 vote


The Jersey City Council approved an e-bike delivery ordinance sponsored by Ward E Councilman James Solomon in a 7-1 vote at last night’s meeting.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

During the ordinance’s public comment period, Jersey City Restaurant Association President Melanie Rudin reiterated her support of the local legislation.

“It’s so important. Without controls around certain behaviors, these restaurants aren’t going to survive. We appreciate all you’re doing,” Rudin said to applause.

Ghost Truck Kitchen owner Andrew Martino spoke in favor of the ordinance as well.

“We are fighting a very challenging battle against very well-funded organizations,” he explained, indicating that some food delivery apps are against regulations.

“Consumers are being harmed. They forced restaurants to raise the prices. Consumes bear the burnt.”

Martino praised the safety protections and provisions added to the ordinance, which includes allowing deliveristas to use the restrooms at establishments, receiving all of their tips, and cancelling trips without sanctions.

“They are doing an important job. They were the ones during the pandemic that brought food. The same is true when it’s too cold … too anything,” Karin Vanoppen said, stating that she was not in favor of the regulations before the council.

“What it is mostly doing is punishing if they’re not doing something. You have to wear a high visibility anything. You also have to do a test for food safety. You have to have the test result on your person … The majority of the people that do this work are immigrants. I don’t see how we rhyme that with Jersey City being a sanctuary city.”

She was also against the idea of deliveristas being fined for not wearing the vests issued by app companies and/or not completing tests.

“I’m friends with [Hoboken 1st Ward] Councilman Paul Presinzano, who introduced a similar ordinance that became law. I helped him write it … Take a test, wear a vest,” Kevin Davis said.

Davis said he would prefer that delivery drivers register with the city and not the app companies, as well as have a registration number on each individual vest like Hoboken will require.

As a matter of fact, he called for the measure to be amended and be identical to the one in the Mile Square City.

“Within the last two years, we really are struggling. All our produce has gone up 300%, 200%. I got a call from Grub Hub. They jacked up their delivery fees again. It’s getting really difficult for us … to stay open,” Yvonne Rodriguez, of Subia’s Vegan Café, explained.

She also called for the delivery fees to be stabilized.

Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley expressed concerns prior to the vote.

“It seems like two separate issues. The fee portion has gotten pretty good. We still have a few issues around the bikes. Which is challenging. I’m not super comfortable yet where they are on the delivery side,” she said before voting no.

“I do have some concerns about the case with the cyclists. That has been the hardest to work through,” Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said.

She also said city identification of workers would be a difficult process, and compiling the list could hurt immigrants in a worst-case scenario if the federal government demanded it, though was in favor of food app workers registering.

“I really want to see how the driver piece works here,” Prinz-Arey added before voting yes.

“It’s a long time coming. Something has to be done on the local level. We have the restaurants getting squeezed. We have the delivery drivers being rushed. That causes accidents. We have the apps that are in constant competition for more and more profits,” Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh explained.

He said Uber Eats and Door Dash make billions of dollars a year and this is “off the backs of the laborers, of the restauranteurs.”

He continued that a price floor is needed and that he thought what their counterparts in Hoboken did with respect to deliverista registration is too complicated.

“We want them to be able to use the bathrooms, to take a safety course. We need to mandate some simple things,” Saleh also said.

Solomon, who led the way for the fine tuning of the ordinance over the past two months, admitted the final product isn’t perfect, but still felt it was a good place to be.

“The first part was setting the basic fees … on the apps. You need these apps. There’s three of them. But they don’t really compete. We have to create basic government rules. This is a basic step we can take for you to keep more of your profits,” he began.

“This is not perfect. It’s about creating a foundation. The restaurants and app companies need to do more. We can keep going. If there continue to be … new ways to protect workers rights, we can add that.”

He continued that while he supports bike lanes, they won’t be able to fix everything on their own, deliveristas are generally treated poorly by food delivery app companies, and that the city would not maintain any lists of those who register.

The downtown councilman continued that several delivery worker advocates were in favor of having the vests, but did not want them to have a registration number on them.

“We have to have a couple basic rules in place. There’s no end of the line here. We’re protecting our restaurants,” Solomon said before voting yes.

Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore noted it had been a lengthy process preparing the ordinance for final passage.

“All of us have done our due diligence. Is the ordinance perfect? No. But something has to be done. I like the idea of vests. It identifies the individual and who they are working from,” he said before voting aye.

The Jersey City Council passed the ordinance 7-1, with Ridley voting no and Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera absent.

During the general public comment period, Vanoppen praised Ridley for voting against the local legislation, stating that she wanted to see delivery workers’ conditions improve to applause from other members of the audience.

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