The video is one of several that has spread on social media this week purporting to show delivery workers being arrested for doing their jobs. These incidents serve as worrisome reminders of the potential risks delivery workers must take to earn money, especially right now.
In interviews with CNN Business, several delivery workers across the country described rethinking whether and how to continue doing their jobs at a time of sweeping civil unrest. The workers said they must confront a range of new issues from clogged streets to fears of getting stopped by law enforcement.
One delivery worker in New York City said he has had no choice but to bike on sidewalks to bypass groups of people gathering in the streets in recent days. He has accepted orders to pick up deliveries at restaurants only to find out upon arrival that the businesses had closed for the day. At one point in between orders, the worker said, he witnessed a group of people breaking windows on a storefront in Lower Manhattan.
The worker, who primarily delivers for DoorDash and spoke to CNN Business on the condition of anonymity for fear of being deactivated from the platform, said he has delivered past the curfew and feels he has even been incentivized to do so — however modestly — because DoorDash offered bonuses of $1-$4 on orders depending on the neighborhood this week.
“I think it’s crazy, with everything on fire and giving me a $2 bonus — it’s because they know people have to work,” the worker told CNN Business. He lost his previous job earlier this year and turned to delivery services like DoorDash as his financial lifeline. “Since I didn’t know the pandemic was going to hit, I didn’t have much money saved,” he said.
A spokesperson for DoorDash didn’t dispute the worker’s assertion about incentive offerings this week, saying that even if delivery workers are exempt from a city’s curfew, the company will continue to monitor those markets and choose when and how to implement or suspend market incentives.
“The health and safety of our community of Dashers, merchants, and customers remains our top priority. At this time, DoorDash is tailoring operations based on the guidance we have received from governments, including suspending service to abide by local curfews or reducing hours for the safety of our community,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
GrubHub and Postmates issued similar statements to CNN Business. An Uber spokesperson said the company has been regularly communicating with delivery people about the curfews and safety. Concerning its workers in New York City, a spokesperson said the company “will offer legal support to Eats delivery people if they are wrongly arrested for violating the curfew while delivering on the app and aggressively petition City Hall and the NYPD on their behalf.”
In cities where delivery workers do qualify to continue working throughout the evening, they face the anxiety of not knowing what they may encounter outside.
Some, like Daniel Amram, a delivery worker for Postmates, Caviar and Uber Eats in New York City, said the fear kept him home the first night of the curfew but he has been able to largely work as normal since, with a tight deadline to stop before subway service ends for the evening.
Others, like Ron Walter, a delivery worker for DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub in Denver, said he’s been strategically driving outside city limits to the suburbs to avoid bumping up against the curfew. When commuting home from making deliveries one night this week, he said he felt an uneasiness that he could get pulled over.
“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,” Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said about the curfews. “Gig workers are disproportionately people of color, many of whom have already experienced police harassment.”
Black people were overrepresented in on-demand, in-person gig jobs when compared to their overall share of employment, as were Hispanic people, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“They are going to be reticent to go out to work because of the curfew, even if they are considered essential workers,” added Dubal.
“A lot of delivery drivers are black and brown people and it feels like yet another not-so-subtle way that we are systemically kept from resources,” Erica Lee, who works for DoorDash in Philadelphia, wrote in a message to CNN Business.
Lee, who has done deliveries for more than a year to supplement her income, decided the risk of being out past curfew and potentially getting pulled over wasn’t worth it. She has temporarily stopped doing deliveries.