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Food Delivery Workers Fear For Their Safety Battling Curfews And A Pandemic

For the past few months, delivery/gig workers have had to navigate being an “essential worker,” making minimum wage, and battling a global pandemic while going out and working during a time where the government is telling everyone to stay home. Now, many are facing the challenges of figuring out how to work around thousands of protests and early night curfews enforced aggressively by the nation’s police force. 

This past Thursday, a video went viral on Twitter that showed a food courier out doing deliveries being arrested by multiple NYPD officers for being out past curfew, even though essential workers have been exempt from the curfew restrictions. The employee worked for a food delivery service known as Caviar, which is owned by DoorDash, and a spokesperson for the company recently made a statement regarding the video, claiming that they were “alarmed by it and we’re gathering information and are in contact with City officials to determine what transpired.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the incident is “NOT acceptable and must stop.”

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This wasn’t an isolated incident either, several other videos have been circulating online that seem to depict multiple delivery workers being arrested, assaulted, and yelled at by officers for simply doing their job or walking home from work; something that’s especially common in large metropolitans like New York City. 

In multiple media interviews with these employees, many have reconsidered their current employment during a time of justified civil unrest, however, for many this is their sole source of income, and quitting a job during one of the worst recessions the US has ever endured is daunting, especially if you’re making minimum wage. 

DoorDash has responded to their employees having to navigate through crowded city streets, police officers, and working with small businesses that have closed on days due to protests, but are listed as open on the app, by incentivizing them with $1-$4 bonuses on certain orders; I’m sure you could imagine how less than enthused some employees were. 

“I think it’s crazy, with everything on fire and giving me a $2 bonus — it’s because they know people have to work. I lost my previous job earlier this year and turned to delivery services like DoorDash as a financial lifeline. Since I didn’t know the pandemic was going to hit, I didn’t have much money saved,” an anonymous DoorDash employee told the media

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DoorDash has also released a statement in which they claimed that their employees’ health and safety was top priority, and that they are “tailoring operations based on the guidance [they] have received from governments.” Other popular food delivery services like GrubHub and Postmates have issued similar statements. 

The unemployment rate in America is currently at 13.3%, and over 30 million individuals have lost their jobs since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Workers for essential services like DoorDash are now at a crossroads of choosing their health and safety or minimum wage employment during a time of political unrest and economic turmoil. Many are forced into choosing the latter. 

“For those who are making ends meet by delivering food and groceries during the pandemic, this is going to be another source of anxiety, insecurity, and economic instability. Gig workers are disproportionately people of color, many of whom have already experienced police harassment,” Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said about the curfews. 

The curfews themselves aren’t only harmful for employees in terms of potentially being arrested, but also because it limits the amount of business these essential services are able to receive, which leads to even less money being made. New York has since lifted its curfew, but other major cities still have them in place, so many protesters are now calling on their lawmakers to allow them to express their first amendment rights the way they were originally intended; at any hour of the day or night.