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CASE STUDY: Lucien Partners helps the gig-sector build improbable political alliances to secure regulatory victory.

Lucien Partners was asked to assist Postmates navigate a problem at the City of Los Angeles and later at the County of Los Angeles that threatened to result in the loss of substantial revenue to the company. The City Council was debating the imposition of a rate cap on food delivery platforms to provide economic relief for restaurants. The author of the motion was unwilling to negotiate on any terms, further solidifying the challenges.

We quickly identified a complex set of challenges the company was facing:

  1. Aside from articulating the impacts of the proposed policy on the delivery platforms, there wasn’t a clear, compelling public policy argument as to why the rate cap should not be adopted.

  2. The company had few external allies or coalition partners to augment the lobbying effort.

  3. The City Council was adopting emergency ordinances in record timing, usually in less than four weeks.

  4. The City Council was foregoing policy committee hearings, which both eliminated a prospective chokepoint and accelerated the timeline of ordinance adoption.

  5. The company had not identified a councilmember to champion defeat or amendments to the introduced motion.

  6. Print publications were highlighting perspectives from notable restaurants and chefs (all of whom were white), which had a considerable adverse impact to the delivery platforms, but not conveying the unintended policy consequences of the proposed ordinance.

  7. Organized labor was politically agitating the City Council to support the proposed ordinance, and the food delivery platforms lacked comparable political heft.

  8. The murder of George Floyd distracted the attention of the public and the Council on issues related to food delivery, price gouging, and the Gig economy to those of police accountability and structural racism.

  9. The Brown Act, suspended by Governor Brown, enabled the Council to curtail public comment and participation.

The Lucien Partners team analyzed the proposed policy and produced a set of arguments conveying that the policy would disproportionately, negatively impact minority-owned restaurants, and restaurants located within the food deserts of the City of Los Angeles. We developed a cogent rationale concerning how the policy would exacerbate food deserts in the midst of a pandemic.

Recognizing that delivery platform companies did not have the credibility to convey these messages, the Lucien Partners team leveraged its relationships with the Black Business Association of Los Angeles and other business organizations to equip these organizations with this message. Lucien Partners later expanded this coalition to include notable Black and Latino restaurants, high-profile nonprofit organizations, and neighborhood influencers within key council districts. The Lucien Partners team organized this coalition of businesses, educated and rallied them behind the issues and talking points, and prepared them to formally and independently engage specific policymakers.

On April 27, 2020, the LA Times senior food writer authored an article entitled “LA looks to help restaurants by capping food delivery fees at 15%,” providing notable amplification and political momentum to the author of the rate cap motion. However, on May 18, 2020, in an LA Times article entitled “In a twist, dozens of Los Angeles restaurants oppose delivery app fee cap,” Lucien Partners was able to successfully leverage our coalition to convince the LA Times that an additional article detailing the policy arguments against the rate cap was meritorious. It further cemented to the City Council that the unintended consequences of the policy should not be overlooked, especially as it relates to minority restaurants that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Lucien Partners leveraged its policy acumen and relationships with organized labor as an opportunity to discuss an alternative to the rate cap that would benefit both public sector city unions and the delivery platforms. This resulted in Lucien Partners assembling a coalition of labor unions to join the delivery platform companies in opposition to the rate cap, against the backdrop of Proposition 22.

This political shift, combined with our robust earned and paid media strategies, enabled Lucien Partners and the Postmates lobbying team to effectively make a case to the chair of the Council panel with policy jurisdiction—the Committee on Economic Development—that this proposed policy deserved considerable committee scrutiny. The Chair possessed the authority to waive consideration of the policy or convene a committee hearing. The Councilmember chose to hold a committee hearing, which bought food network companies additional time to build out our public affairs strategy.

With this additional time, Lucien Partners assisted Postmates recruit notable community leaders, organize and deploy restaurant owners to engage Council offices, draft a variety of tailored talking points, author unique letters of opposition for submission by various groups, place opinion-editorials in ethnic newspapers, execute several media buys on platforms targeted to garner attention from specific policymakers, assist with the coordination of public testimony from drivers and merchants on the Postmates platform, and recruit workers and community organizers to place calls, emails, and provide public testimony.