Mel Gonzalez

  • Hosted by Make the Road New York
  • Sponsored by Shearman & Sterling LLP, Thomson Reuters
  • Service location Brooklyn, New York
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area Workers' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Mel advocated for New York City’s restaurant delivery workers to improve working conditions in the traditional and new gig economy through organizing, direct representation, education, and policy reform.

Food delivery workers in New York City face substantial workplace issues, both traditional and new. For decades, they have been criminalized for the use of their primary tool of the trade, electric bicycles, resulting in substantial criminal, psychological, financial and immigration related problems. Delivery workers also experience widespread wage theft and unfair working conditions. These problems have been exacerbated by the rise of gig economy services that are changing traditional workplace arrangements and weakening available labor protections.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Mel has:

  • Represented 87 delivery workers facing tickets and fines due to their e-bike use and provided advice to an additional 33 delivery workers on employment and benefits
  • Provided 10,000 workers’ rights booklets for construction workers with Thomson Reuters support
  • Drafted and advocated for a state law decriminalizing delivery workers’ use of electric bicycles, which passed the New York State Legislature and is expected to be signed into law
  • Negotiated a settlement that will provide $150,000 in unpaid wages, vacation pay, the provision of e-bikes and safety gear, raises, and compliance with other labor laws to delivery workers
  • Through litigation, representation in and settlement negotiation, secured thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and damages, and other workplace improvements for individual workers across various industries including delivery workers.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Mel plans to continue fighting to improve working conditions, in particular for delivery workers. Through legal and organizing efforts, Mel hopes to ensure the effective decriminalization of workers’ use of e-bikes, the protection of delivery workers in the changing gig economy, and the empowerment of workers as they continue to face wage theft.


Pedal-Assist E-Bike Legalization Leaves Delivery Workers Out in the Cold

If you want to understand everything that’s wrong with tipping, look to New York

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