Two years after fleeing political persecution in Bangladesh, Salauddin Bablu was stabbed to death in Manhattan by a man who stole the electric bike he used to deliver long shifts food for the Grubhub app.
“When Salauddin died, his family lost everything,” Bablu’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Ahsan, said by phone from New York City, adding that Bablu used to send half of his earnings to his wife and children in Bangladesh.
Bablu’s 2021 killing is one of more than 50 documented in a report issued Wednesday by California-based labor group Gig Workers Rising, which said app companies in the US must do more to protect to crime drivers while they are on the streets working.
The group tracked the murders of temporary or independent workers 2017 using information such as news reports and families’ GoFundMe pages and found that more than 60 percent of the victims were, like Bablu, people of color, many of them immigrants or newcomers to the United States.
Workers in the gig economy are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities, the Pew Research Center has foundnon-white workers being more likely to report “problematic encounters,” such as feeling unsafe.
A Grubhub spokesperson said the safety of drivers and couriers “is our top priority” and that it will “work with state and local governments across the country to implement safety measures.”
Ahsan said the company offered Bablu’s family a sum of $15,000 after his murder.
“It’s really nothing, it can only support the family for a few months,” Ahsan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “These are very dangerous jobs, and companies need to be more responsible.”
The report says that major app-based companies, including Uber, Grubhub, Lyft, Postmates and Instacart, are not doing enough to keep temporary workers safe and offering inadequate compensation when they are attacked by criminals while doing their jobs.
“These are not isolated incidents… It’s a pattern,” said Cherri Murphy, a former Lyft driver who worked on the report.
In statements sent by email, all concert companies mentioned in the report said they prioritized worker safety. Some have introduced new safety precautions and benefits for injuries or death.
Workers attacked and killed
But in light of the dangers drivers and delivery people often face, which can include robbery and vehicle theft, critics of app companies say they should give workers the benefits of full-time employment.
Concert companies have campaigned to classify workers as independent contractorsinstead of employeesa move that saves Uber and Lyft $392 million in annual costs associated with insurance and taxes in California alone, according to Dear by Reuters.
“We know that workers who drive for a living are 20 times more likely to be killed than people who do other jobs,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at UC Hastings School of Law who has pushed to extend driving rights. employees to temporary workers.
In 2021, Uber introduced new safety features, including the ability for drivers and passengers to record audio of calls, and offers additional protections against injury.
Some temporary companies offer death benefits, but the protections are often not enough for traditional employees, Dubal said.
Grubhub, the company Bablu delivered food for, did not respond to a request for comment about what insurance or death benefits are offered to workers.
“Companies are responsible for putting workers’ lives at risk,” said Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the Workers Justice Project, which helps organize the delivery collective, Los Deliveristas Unidos.
His group has recorded at least 16 delivery drivers killed on the job in New York City between 2020 and 2021 in both accidents and assaults.
“We are doing vigils all the time,” he said.
Uber’s most recent safety report, from 2019, showed that seven workers were assaulted and killed in 2017 and 2018. Lyft documented 10 murders between 2017 and 2019.
None of the other major platforms have made that data public, according to Gig Workers Rising.
Murphy said that made it hard to know the true extent of security problems, calling for a ban on non-disclosure agreements and for companies to make more data public.