A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 257

Grubhub deliverymen in Manhattan.

Thursday, March 3

The food-delivery guys on bicycles are a menace to cars, pedestrians…and other bikers. No doubt at least some of their recklessness reflects the pressure they are under from their employers.

All have electric-powered bikes, which are regarded as essential equipment by the restaurants. They zip along, not going all that fast (a preferred bike. the Arrow, apparently tops out at 28 mph) but often going against the auto traffic, the wrong way down one-way bike lanes, driving on sidewalks, running red lights, and yielding to no one. And they seem to travel in packs, often bunched three or more together. Uber Eats, Grubhub, Door Dash, MaxDelivery, Caviar, Chow Now…who can keep up with all of them?

It’s another sign of the decline of Western civilization. If there is so much demand for delivered food, it has to mean that people aren’t cooking…just depending instead on fast-casual outlets.

According to a September, 2021 report issued by the Workers Justice Project, which is affiliated with Cornell University, the average city food-delivery worker earns only around $8 per hour. Two-thirds of respondents said they regularly work six days a week, and 85% said this was their main and only job. Nor do the food-delivery services seem to experience any labor shortage despite the fact that a plethora of stores and restaurants have window signs advertising job openings.

Sixteen of the food-delivery guys died on the job in the year previous to the publication of the Workers Justice Project report. About half of all the workers said they had been involved in a crash or accident during delivery–and the way they drive, who could wonder? “A gamelike system of rewards and penalties keeps them moving: high scores for being on time, low scores and fewer orders for tardiness, and so on,” writes online zine The Verge. As “independent contractors,” they get paid only when they complete a delivery. None of this would be possible without mobile phones and the apps that receive orders and direct the army of deliverers.

At Astor Place.

They also face violent attacks from those who want to steal their bikes. The Workers Justice Project’s survey found that 54 percent of delivery workers have had bikes stolen.

There are signs of incipient collective action–Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups that focus on the thefts and exploitative working conditions; and a collective fighting for labor rights, Los Deliveristas Unidos. (Their No. 1 demand: the right to use restaurants’ bathrooms.)

In the wider world, there’s another global outrage: This time, it’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Beginning with the COVID plague, it seems that there have been an unending string of shocking, you-wouldn’t-believe-it developments, including police shootings in several U.S. cities, street fighting between fascists and progressives, Hurricanes Henri and Ida, the January 6th Washington riot and Capitol invasion by pro-Trumpers, the truck caravans in Canada…and I’m sure that I am forgetting some.

Emily just got her fourth COVID vaccination. This one was the biggest hassle of all. Walgreen’s phone robot said she had a 4 p.m. appointment—then at the drugstore, they had no record of it. So, lots of waiting.

Dinner: stir-fried eggplant with yu-xiang sauce and cold noodles with sesame sauce.

Entertainment: concluding episodes of Conspiracy of Silence on Topic.