Belabored: Courier Class War

Belabored: Courier Class War

Delivery workers from New York and London join the podcast to talk about organizing during the pandemic.

Members of Los Deliveristas Unidos at a rally in New York (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

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While the pandemic brought turmoil and massive job losses to many sectors of the economy, some industries flourished during the many months of lockdowns, quarantines, and remote work and schooling. We came to rely on Zoom and Amazon as basic means of communication and consumption, and when it came to staying fed, many of us turned to food platforms like Grubhub, DoorDash, or Uber Eats. Food couriers became part of the essential workforce of the pandemic, toiling for long hours on the streets and often putting their own health at risk to serve the public.

With many people seeking work after restaurants and other businesses shuttered, the ranks of delivery workers expanded massively, as did the health and safety risks endemic to their trade. Many began organizing to improve their pay and seek more protections at work. The transnational struggles of couriers sparked innovative ways of networking and mobilizing, as workers discovered they could use their phones not just to pick up gigs but also to connect with fellow couriers. To learn more about organizing food delivery labor during the pandemic, we spoke with Antonio Solis, a member of Los Deliveristas Unidos—an organization of app-based delivery workers in New York City—and with Ahmed Hafezi and John Kirk, Deliveroo couriers and organizers with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain.

Read a transcript of Michelle’s interview with Antonio Solis here.

In other news, we look at allegations of worker abuse in the House of Bezos, the Gannett newsroom strikes, Chinese iPhone workers struggling under a COVID-19 lockdown, and labor ballot measures. 

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David K. Li and Diana Dasrath, Housekeeper’s claims that Jeff Bezos made staff go ‘without rest or meal breaks’ are without merit, his lawyer says, NBC News

Josh Eidelson, Lawyer Suing Twitter Over Layoffs Says Musk Trying to Comply, Bloomberg News

Sam Hancock, Apple: Chinese workers flee Covid lockdown at iPhone factoryBBC News

New York rally in solidarity with Foxconn workers; Apple’s new statement hides the truth, 

Aaron Morrison, Slavery, involuntary servitude rejected by 4 states’ votersAP News

Daniel Wiessner, Voters in Illinois, Tennessee approve dueling measures on union membership, Reuters

Pittsburgh Union Progress

Gannett Union Press


Los Deliveristas Unidos

Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain

Michelle Chen, Los Deliveristas Unidos Demand Justice, Dissent

Michelle Chen, Your Rent or Your Life, The Nation

Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, Belabored: Riding for Deliveroo, with Callum CantDissent

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Food Delivery Apps Are Booming. Their Workers Are Often StrugglingNew York Times

The Transnational Courier FederationNotes From Below

Thanks to the Ford Foundation of Social Justice for sponsoring this series.

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