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Second Delivery Company Steps Up to Help Workers Avoid Deadly Lithium-Ion Fires

Grubhub is partnering with JOCO to provide free e-bikes to delivery workers. Photo: Grubhub

Another tech giant is now stepping up to help delivery workers access safe e-bikes amid a scourge of deadly fires linked to faulty lithium-ion batteries — a week after Uber unveiled two trade-in programs to swap out bad power packs.

The Chicago-based tech firm Grubhub will announce today that it’s partnering with JOCO, an e-bike rental company, to provide more than 1,000 certified e-bikes to workers who make deliveries for Grubhub. The workers will also gain access to more than 55 JOCO docking hubs, where they can juice up or exchange their batteries, and safely store their e-bikes.

“Delivery workers are essential to thousands of communities and businesses, including Grubhub’s, and helping to ensure their safety – and the safety of all New Yorkers – is a top priority,” said Amy Perlik Healy, vice president of government relations at Grubhub, which last May sponsored a disastrous “free lunch” day that wreaked havoc in swamped restaurant kitchens.

The city’s more than 65,000 delivery workers — the majority of whom are low-income immigrant men — take home just $7.09 per hour on average, excluding tips, making it difficult for them to afford safe, certified batteries.

For that, the apps must be held accountable, said the Worker's Justice Project, which is fighting for better working conditions, including a minimum wage, for deliveristas.

“The prevalence of second-market batteries is a direct result of the burdensome costs associated with the job,” said the group's executive director, Ligia Guallpa.

At a City Council hearing last week on a bill to create a city-run battery buy-back program — a hearing just days after a two more people were killed in a fire in Queens sparked by a lithium-ion battery that exploded — Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Assistant Commissioner Carlos Ortiz testified that the app companies must do more for the safety and livelihood of their workers.

“Businesses that rely on the hard work of delivery workers … have certain responsibilities to ensure that folks have access to safe devices and safe vehicles,” said Ortiz during the hearing. His comments went much further than the city’s recent 35-page “Charge Safe, Ride Safe" action plan, which relegated the responsibility of the app companies to a mere aside.

As part of the partnership, Grubhub is also matching Uber’s $100,000 donation to the FDNY Foundation to help power an e-bike safety education campaign. DoorDash announced the same.

Currently, JOCO’s $2,250 orange e-bikes — which are certified by the International Electrotechnical Commission — are available for rent for either six hours a day at $12, a full day for $21, or weekly for $65.

But starting in June, “select Grubhub delivery partners” will be able to use the bikes for free. Grubhub will also sponsor a JOCO rest stop for delivery workers, according to the company. A short-lived rest stop on the Upper East Side, operated by Chick-fil-A, shuttered this month.

Meanwhile, the city is working with Los Deliveristas Unidos to open new charging hubs created out of retrofitted newsstands. But so far, only two locations have been identified — one of which received intense pushback from the local community board.

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