From the Field

The Racial Economics of Proposition 22

Our interviews of grocery gig workers reveal a bleak labor landscape, made more precarious by the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 2, 2022

By Nina F. Ichikawa

Do these companies think that Black and Brown people don’t deserve paid days off? Or healthcare? Or any income if they are sick and trying to avoid infecting others?

I looked more into the “safety standards” of some of these gig grocery delivery companies. Before the pandemic, they were atrocious. But in the midst of a respiratory pandemic, do you really want to eat prepared food or cold groceries that have been picked up and delivered with this level of food safety “guidance” for couriers? The reality is this: exploited workers without health or safety protections are at greater risk at harm from COVID. When people handle sensitive food without proper training, they potentially transfer harm to you. It even affects people like me who are able to shop in person: careening past gig shoppers who are underpaid and fighting with a finicky app where missteps mean their work will be unpaid is an awful experience for everyone involved.

14 days of time off is not enough for someone fighting — and potentially spreading — COVID-19. I want the person delivering food for my family’s table to be treated well, with a reliable salary and the ability to take a breath. I want them to be able to take the time to ensure utmost sanitation and even enjoy pride in their work and save for retirement. Food is essential and precious, and so are the people delivering it.

If you are a salaried employee yourself, please consider people working full-time without basic protections. If you are working as a “contractor,” please consider your minimum annual salary to be able to pay for health insurance, retirement, and time to not work if your health or something else takes a turn for the worse. I bet that the average grocery gig worker makes less than that. Whether you are a grocery gig worker or not, please vote.