In New York City, gig workers facing food insecurity are fighting back

“On a sunny Saturday in March, Gustavo Ajche and Ligia Guallpa welcomed two dozen food delivery couriers to a morning rally in lower Manhattan. As mimosa drinkers filled SoHo cafes’ outdoor tables, couriers lined up for hot chuchitos, Guatemalan tamales filled with chicken and beef,” writes Karina Piser in FERN’s latest story, published with Mother Jones.

“Guallpa, head of the immigrant-­focused Worker’s Justice Project, and Ajche, a sometime courier himself, had invited the men to learn about Los Deliveristas Unidos, an informal WJP-backed network of mostly Mexican and Guatemalan delivery workers who banded together during the pandemic. Ajche, dousing his snack in green Picamás hot sauce, pitched them on demanding better working conditions: higher wages, a commitment from restaurants to let working couriers use restrooms, and a state-financed insurance fund to replace stolen bikes.

“Demand for couriers grew during the pandemic, yet their conditions only deteriorated. Lockdowns cut into their hours, leaving many workers struggling to pay bills and feed families. Eighty percent of gig workers surveyed in the summer of 2020 by the University of California, Los Angeles, Labor Center said they weren’t making enough to meet household expenses. A third did not have enough for groceries. Because most app-based food delivery companies classify workers as independent contractors, not employees, the workers lacked critical labor protections and benefits during an unstable time, even struggling to qualify for SNAP.”