Tag: Deliveristas

JHISN Newsletter 1/8/2022

Dear friends,

One of the many New Year’s celebrated in our neighborhood has just passed. This turning of the wheel of time also marks the return of Covid as an immediate and unequal threat. ‘How do we create solidarity during a global pandemic?’ JHISN asked in one of our first Covid-era newsletters in March 2020. At the start of this troubled new year, we want to honor all of our readers who have—in so many ways, seen and unseen—tried to answer that question with how you live, with what you love, with the kind of world you long to create.

Our newsletter looks at the mourning and mobilizing of NYC immigrant workers whose lives are literally on the line in the risky, low-wage business of food delivery. We then report on the most recent immigrant-led campaigns to protect essential workers in NY State, even as the visibility of their work starts to fade and their exclusion from government support continues.    

Newsletter highlights:

  1. NYC delivery workers mourn and organize
  2. Essential workers: still essential, still excluded

1. Deliveristas: Risking Death on Our Streets

In a more just city, in a happier time, immigrant food delivery workers would be in the mood for celebration. After all, after years of militant organizing, Los Deliveristas Unidos (LDU) and their allies have won a stunning victory, with the passage of new laws—effective starting this month—that finally give workers the use of restaurant bathrooms, minimum payments per trip, more disclosures about tips, and other crucial gains.

But bike delivery is a very dangerous job, and NYC deliveristas are still being killed and wounded in collisions and robberies. Half of all surveyed workers have been in an accident while working; more than half have been robbed or physically assaulted. Recent deaths within their ranks have hit deliveristas hard. And so satisfaction for progress made can only be mixed with grief, and with collective determination to keep organizing for better conditions.

Memorial for Adrian Coyotl De Los Santos, a Mexican immigrant and street vendor killed while riding his e-bike to work. Photo–Joseph Sciorra

In a December 18 Facebook post, the Jackson Heights-based group DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) expressed sadness and anger about how New York treats the deaths of delivery workers: 

“On Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office released information about the arrest of the man who is charged with the death of Borkot Ullah—Delivery worker and DRUM member who was killed while making food deliveries this past July.

“Borkot was struck by the driver who ran the light while being chased by the police. The driver was speeding and is responsible for Borkot’s death. But it is also illegal for the NYPD to engage in high speed car chases within the city to prevent exactly these situations. There is still no word about the officers involved in the chase who are also to blame for Borkot’s tragic death….

“Why is there a difference between the speeding driver who killed Borkot (and is being prosecuted), the speeding driver who killed Xin Long Lin (not being prosecuted), and the speed chasing cops in Borkot’s case (also not being investigated or prosecuted)? Does the identity of the victim determine how the District Attorney will pursue a case?….

“What does justice look like for immigrants who are forced to leave their homelands and work long hours in unsafe conditions for corporations that treat them as disposable? Do we believe pursuing justice through a system that is defined by punishment and retribution is the way forward?

“We are mourning. Mourning the loss of Borkot Ullah and the loss of Xin Long Lin. We are hurting. Yet, in our hurt, we know that there has to be a better way.

“By coming together to encourage safety and strengthen the bond between each other, delivery workers are working to make sure no more workers die like this. They are building solidarity as Black, Latinx, South Asian, Arab, African, East Asian and other people of color to build collective power and change their conditions to fight for the future of all delivery workers.”

On December 31, more than 2,000 protesting members of Los Deliveristas Unidos rolled through the streets of Manhattan, fighting once again for better working conditions and pay. They are now bolstered by representation and legal support from service worker union SEIU Local 32BJ. One of the deliveristas’ main demands at the demonstration: more protected bike lanes.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

2. Does New York Still Care About Essential Workers?

In the early months of the pandemic, the term “essential workers” catapulted into popular consciousness. Disproportionately working-class, immigrant, and of color, essential workers were people who kept showing up for their jobs, while many of us worked remotely or remained locked down at home. Essential workers were people who got sick and died from Covid at higher rates because their labor conditions exposed them to higher risk. Essential workers were people whose labor was necessary to keep society going during a brutal pandemic, including workers in health care, transit, farm work, food production, delivery, sanitation, and grocery stores. Essential workers were unsung heroes who, in the throes of the Covid threat, society started to sing about.

What happened to our collective recognition of the food, care, and necessary production and services provided by essential workers? Almost two years into the pandemic, public consciousness—including a renewed class consciousness—of whose work is really essential seems to be fading. Even as the latest threat from a virulent Covid mutation once again puts essential workers, and their households, at greatest risk of exposure and sickness.

An estimated 74% of undocumented workers in the US are essential workers. The vast majority of them have been excluded from the government’s pandemic relief efforts, including enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. A recent analysis by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy spotlights the discriminatory financial effects of this exclusion: a family of four with two US citizen breadwinners earning a combined annual income of $24,000, would receive $35,470 more in government pandemic benefits during 8 weeks of unemployment than a similar family with two US children and two undocumented working parents.  

In response to this punishing aid gap, New York’s essential and excluded workers got organized. Led by the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition (FEW), including Make the Road New York, immigrant activists won a historic $2.1 billion fund for excluded workers in the state budget last spring. But the fund ran out in just two months. Thousands of eligible workers in upstate and rural areas didn’t even have a chance to hear about the fund and to apply. An estimated 40,000 applicants were denied simply because the fund had been exhausted. Now immigrant activists are calling on Governor Hochul to dedicate $3 billion in additional state funds to fully address the pandemic aid gap for undocumented workers. 

A new mobilization organized by the FEW Coalition, #ExcludedNoMore, has also been launched to create a permanent statewide solution to systemic inequalities in unemployment insurance for immigrant workers and others who labor in low-wage, precarious industries. #ExcludedNoMore calls for a separate and parallel NY State unemployment insurance program that would serve domestic workers, street vendors, day laborers, and other workers historically excluded from unemployment compensation.

On New Year’s Eve, the FEW Coalition tweeted out, “Thousands were left behind with no relief this season,” asking members to light a candle in solidarity with excluded workers everywhere. As 2022 begins, New York’s eviction moratorium is ending, along with Biden’s child tax credit that helped millions of families, including immigrant households, keep children fed and pay the bills. How can we support essential workers in the ongoing struggle for economic justice? What essential lessons from an unforgiving pandemic must never be forgotten? 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Share tweets from #FundExcludedWorkers calling for $3 billion in additional support.
  • Listen to and circulate the podcast with FEW coordinator Bianca Guerrero on the need for a permanent NYS unemployment plan for undocumented and other marginalized workers. 

 In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and Twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN. 

 

 

JHISN Newsletter 06/26/2021

Dear friends,

With you, we welcome the arrival of summer and its promise of warmth, and green shade, and shared gatherings that one year ago seemed dreadfully out of reach. Food will be at the center of so many of our renewed gatherings this summer, and this week’s newsletter takes a deeper look at the intersection of food politics and immigrant justice. From farmworkers to restaurant workers to street vendors, immigrant labor is a huge force in the harvesting and production of our food. We look at one essential sector of that labor: the tens of thousands of food delivery workers in New York City.

Delivering Justice: Immigrant Workers Fight Back

The bitter truth is that many food delivery workers can work 12 hours a day in the cold or rain for multiple food service apps and still not make enough to feed their own families.   —Los Deliveristas Unidos

Restaurant delivery workers helped keep New York alive during the worst days of the pandemic. They are celebrated as “heroes,” and as “essential.” Yet every time we accept a food delivery at our front door, we are interacting with one of the most exploited workforces in the city–almost all immigrants, and almost all people of color

For years, delivery workers have fought for justice against their employers and a callous city government, determined to improve unacceptable pay and working conditions. Now these skirmishes are turning into an outright battle, as delivery workers gain allies and move to a new level of unity and organization.

Restaurant delivery in the U.S. is a massive industry, worth tens of billions of dollars. And New York City is its epicenter. Just a few years ago, food delivery in New York was arranged mainly by individual restaurants, usually paying undocumented immigrants “under the table.” In parts of the city, this notoriously harsh model continues. Many delivery people work up to 16 hours a day, for a few dollars an hour with no overtime.

However, the advent of delivery apps like UberEats, Seamless/Grubhub, and DoorDash, has rapidly transformed the industry. The app services hire people as “independent contractors”; workers must now supply social security numbers, and are usually given basic English language tests. 

When Covid-19 closed down much of the city, unemployment and demand for food delivery both skyrocketed–and so did “gig” delivery work. Before the pandemic, New York had an estimated 50,000 app delivery workers. In just one year, ending in March, UberEats alone added 36,000 more “couriers” locally. Other app companies had similar exponential growth.

 The app services have upended the old business model in many ways. What hasn’t changed is the relentless oppression experienced by delivery workers, mainly immigrants from Latin America and Asia. App workers are poorly paid, with no benefits. They work long hours in bad weather. They buy their own e-bikes, which cost upwards of $2,000, and also pay for batteries, parking, and supplies. Their jobs are dangerous–not just because of traffic, but because delivery people are often assaulted and robbed. There’s a long history of tips and wages being stolen by restaurants and app companies. Delivery workers are subjected to racist disrespect: denied use of bathrooms (which especially impacts women workers), harassed by police, forced to use “poor doors,” insulted on the street. Referring to restaurants that won’t allow the use of their bathrooms, delivery worker Williams Sian comments, “We’re what’s driving their income right now, but…they treat us like insects.”

New York has seen a series of struggles by delivery workers and their allies to combat such abuses in recent years. When Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD started ticketing e-bike riders and confiscating thousands of bikes in 2017-18, grassroots groups like Make the Road and the Chinese Mutual Association helped pressure them to back off. Widespread public outrage about credit card tips being ripped off by restaurants and app services forced some of the big companies to improve their policies. (Grubhub, Seamless, UberEats, Postmates, Caviar, and DoorDash now promise that 100% of customer tips will go to the workers.)

When the pandemic hit, and thousands of laid-off restaurant workers started streaming into app delivery work, the Workers Justice Project, which was already meeting with delivery workers, decided to organize Los Deliveristas Unidos (LDU)–United Delivery Workers. Worker leaders soon emerged to run the LDU collective. Many of the founding members are indigenous Guatemalans or Mexicans. Their demands are simple:

  1. The right to use restaurant bathrooms
  2. A living wage and hazard pay
  3. Protections from e-bike robberies, wage theft, and health and safety hazards
  4. A place to eat, rest, and escape bad weather
  5. The right to organize

Last fall, deliveristas held a series of rallies and gained wide press coverage of their problems. In October, some 800 delivery workers demonstrated in lower Manhattan. In April, thousands of delivery e-bikes snarled traffic in a protest near City Hall, demanding justice from the mayor. On June 8, deliveristas rallied in support of a series of six reform bills introduced in the City Council by LDU allies. SEIU Local 32BJ, one of the largest unions in the city, has been actively supporting LDU, as has outgoing Comptroller Scott Stringer. The deliveristas movement, it appears, is emerging rapidly as a powerful force for immigrant worker justice in New York.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  • Tip well, and in cash, unless you’re sure that the full credit card tip will get to the delivery person. 
  • Donate to the Workers Justice Project/Los Deliveristas Unidos
  • Support the legislative package introduced in New York City Council to secure delivery worker protections and economic justice. 

In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and Twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN.