The delivery worker who fetches your falafel has always faced a gauntlet of obstacles while earning minimal pay. Every third-party company has an algorithm that takes time and ingenuity to master. Takeout pirates can grab food that isn’t theirs. Bad weather can derail a bike courier. A parking ticket can cancel out a driver’s income. And forget about finding a bathroom.

“These workers are isolated,” says Katie Wells, a postdoctoral research fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. She’s been studying gig workers, like delivery drivers, in D.C. for four years. “They internalize workplace difficulties as personal failures. ‘I wasn’t smart enough to make it work.’ Or, ‘I didn’t work hard enough.’” Instead, Wells argues, delivery drivers should be asking why the system sets them up to fail.

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Some individuals who drive for ride-hailing apps are trying out food delivery because they worry about having passengers in their cars. “A number of drivers who didn’t do food delivery have gotten into food delivery for the first time or drastically ramped that up,” says Taylor Woods from rideshare driver advocacy group Drive United. “Food delivery is not seen as a liberating mechanism, but more of a necessary evil.”

Source: Washington City Paper

Delivering Food in D.C. Has Always Been a Tough Job. Then Came a Pandemic.