Willa Glickman is a writer from Brooklyn. She is currently an editorial intern at the New York Review of Books. (September 2019)

NYR DAILY

What the Apps That Bring Food to Your Door Mean for Delivery Workers

Diego Rodriguez, twenty-three, delivering a food order to a customer in Manhattan, September 2, 2019

Food delivery in New York City is nothing new: it’s been possible to have pizza or Chinese takeout brought to your door since the 1950s. Yet in the newer online delivery industry, startups, flush with venture capital, have both altered and entrenched this historically exploitative low-wage work. The higher profile and PR consciousness of the new app firms curb some of the job’s worst abuses and offer the potential for better wages, but they also formalize its precariousness: like most gig workers, couriers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. Online delivery work offers a particularly clear example of the contractor model’s pitfalls when it is applied to a physical and hazardous job.