It’s always adorable when mainstream media reporters discovers the realities that millions of Americans deal with on a daily basis. In this case, it’s the fact that the huge and growing number of gig workers — people who deliver for businesses from local pizza joints to Grubhub, DoorDash, Instacart to Uber and Lyft drivers — are increasingly concerned about their safety while on the job.
NBC News’ Cirus Farivar apparently even ventured into the wilds of flyover country to talk to a range of gig workers whose spidey senses have been tingling over the last year as crime in urban areas has increased.
Police in several major cities, including Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., say carjackings and car thefts, particularly against gig economy drivers, rose during the pandemic.
Some drivers say that despite the companies’ best efforts, they are changing their hours, avoiding certain areas and even carrying weapons, like wasp spray, Mace, Tasers and firearms, to protect themselves.
Oh yeah…about those firearms.
[Instacart Driver Willy] Solis said that since [an Uber Eats driver was killed outside Fort Worth], he has stopped working after 9 p.m. and has considered carrying a gun. But he fears that if he violates gig companies’ rules not to carry firearms, he could risk losing his job.
“I’m very fearful every time I go out,” said Solis, who makes $800 to $1,000 a week before expenses and taxes. “I don’t want to lose my life over a $100 bottle of cognac or a fast food order.” …
“As the danger grows more and more, that’s what’s pushing me more towards the possibility of doing it,” Solis said about carrying a gun.
Imagine that. A perfectly rational response to the increased risk that Solis and tens of thousands of other gig employees deal with on a daily basis.
Virtually all of these services prohibit their drivers from carrying a firearm. As for mace, Tasers and wasp spray, that’s less clear. But as many drivers like Solis are deciding, it’s better to be able to defend yourself and (likely) lose your job than be injured or killed during a robbery or carjacking.
While the gig economy and its rapid growth are relatively new, the threats to these kinds of workers isn’t. NBC’s clueless Farivar writes that . . .
The attacks on drivers, which appear to have started last year, may be part of a larger trend of a rise in violent crime in major cities.
But with the explosion of delivery services in the last year during the pandemic, attacks, especially in urban areas, have escalated. Why? Because police departments have been defunded, jails have been opened, prosecutors don’t prosecute, and lots of those who are arrested are freed without having to post bail.
Thought experiment: if your goal was to create the ideal environment for increased urban violent crime (including those involving guns), is there anything you’d do in addition to what prosecutors, mayors, and city councils around the country have already been doing for the last year?
The good news is, the tech companies that employ these drivers are very concerned about the threats to their drivers.
DoorDash spokesperson Campbell Matthews said in an email that the company is “deeply troubled by reports of increased crime” and that it intends to add an “emergency assistance button into the Dasher app to help connect Dashers to emergency services.”
In a statement, Grubhub spokesperson Grant Klinzman echoed Matthews’ remarks, saying the safety of the company’s drivers “is our top priority” and that the company was “ready to support law enforcement investigations … as they take steps to address the unacceptable spike in vehicle thefts.”
Lyft spokesperson Ashley Adams said that the company considers safety to be “fundamental” and that “we are working closely with law enforcement to help keep drivers safe.”
Good to know.
These gig workers aren’t stupid. They talk to each other, read the reports, and have seen the videos. They know the increased risk they’re taking every time they go out to make a living and they know that there’s less and less being done by police and local governments to deter what’s happening to them. That’s why more of them like Mr. Solis will be choosing to carry firearms, no matter what the companies they work for say about it.