Delivery apps make ordering food easier and cheaper for consumers, but it costs the workers. By offloading the costs of actually delivering food onto labour the app companies like Uber have few expenses they need to cover, thus the appeal to investors. For the first wave of food delivery apps the companies used venture capital to pay delivery workers, but that money ran out and the rates workers were paid decreased.
Now, around the world, delivery workers are fighting back and organizing. In New York City there’s been a massive effort by delivery workers to help each other in more ways than campaigning against the app companies.
Workers developed the whole system â€” the bikes, repair networks, shelters, charging stations â€” because they had to. To the apps, they are independent contractors; to restaurants, they are emissaries of the apps; to customers, they represent the restaurants. In reality, the workers are on their own, often without even the minimum in government support. As contractors and, often, undocumented immigrants, they have few protections and virtually no safety net. The few times city authorities noted the delivery workerâ€™s changing role, it was typically with confused hostility. Until recently, throttle-powered electric bikes like the Arrow were illegal to ride, though not to own. Mayor de Blasio heightened enforcement in 2017, calling the bikes â€œa real dangerâ€ after an Upper West Side investment banker clocked workers with a speed gun and complained to him on The Brian Lehrer Show.