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How Facebook became a lifeline for immigrant bike messengers

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How Fb turned a lifeline for immigrant bike messengers

It was a Monday night time in June when César Solano Catalán heard that two of his fellow supply cyclists had been robbed on the Willis Avenue Bridge, a thousand meters of trussed pavement operating from Harlem to the Bronx.

At 10:45PM, one of many couriers despatched a message to El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana (The Diary of the Supply Boys within the Huge Apple), a Fb web page that Solano operates with 5 of his uncles. The message urged fellow supply employees to take precautions when crossing the bridge since two bikes had been stolen that very same night time. As Solano completed dinner together with his uncles, he despatched messages to the employees’ group chat and gathered a gaggle to reach on the bridge. Collectively, they escorted their compañeros throughout the bridge and helped them ship their orders safely. That night time, Solano and different supply employees undertook the work the NYPD isn’t doing.

Meals supply employees in NYC have change into a part of a rising labor motion of gig employees. They’re demanding robust safety protocols to reply to violence and theft of electrical bikes; higher security protections; assist when they’re injured; and entry to restrooms in eating places or public amenities. And elements of that motion are taking part in out on pages like Solano’s, which use social media as a springboard for in-person collective motion.

Solano created El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana in November 2020 after two meals supply cyclists had been killed on the street. The web page paperwork the problems that immigrant supply employees face in New York, and sheds mild on the structural inequities that affect their lives. With over 25,000 followers, El Diario has change into a neighborhood house for supply employees, principally from Mexico and Central America, to report assaults and robberies, honor those that have been killed on the job, and amplify their combat for security and dignity.

“This web page has a number of functions: to assist colleagues like us with out asking for something in return, whether or not in a vigil, accident, or theft. We publish no matter is said to us,” explains Solano, who left his city of San Juan Puerto Montaña, situated within the Excessive Mountain area of Guerrero in southern Mexico, on the age of 17. “There are different pages that existed earlier than us, however they had been linked to sure teams or nationalities. However we would not have any flag, coloration, nation, or race. We’re solely serving to.” The time period diary helps describe the mission, says Solano. “It’s referred to as like that in an effort to see what meals supply employees undergo day by day.”

In accordance with the advocacy group New American Financial system, nearly 1 in 3 meals supply employees in New York State are undocumented. Financial hardships and rising unemployment maintain pushing immigrants to meals apps, that are being advisable by phrase of mouth. In the event that they hear a few relative or member of their neighborhood who has misplaced their job, Solano explains, they suggest the least worst app.

Solano had been working double shifts as a busboy in Manhattan since arriving within the US, whereas additionally working for supply companies like DoorDash to earn additional money and repay his crossing debt. When the pandemic started, he was laid off from the restaurant and moved to meals supply full-time, signing up for the Relay supply app due to its safe hourly price.

“I’m working with meals apps as a result of I don’t have a boss and I’ve versatile hours. I can relaxation at any time when I can. That’s one of many benefits that purposes offer you,” says Solano. “However there are different occasions that apps don’t perceive you. Your tire goes flat, your bike is stolen, they don’t reply for us. As a result of we’re impartial employees.”

Earlier than delivering meals full-time, Solano’s electrical bicycle was stolen, and the typical price for one can go from $1,500 to over $4000. He felt powerless and remoted, with no means to get well it and with out somebody to go to for steerage.

“You simply filed a report with the police, and the police tells you right here’s the report and that’s it. They are saying they are going to name once they have one thing, however they by no means referred to as me. The identical occurred to my uncle and different acquaintances,” affirms Solano, who additionally created one other fashionable Facebook page that promotes the preservation of his native language, Tlapanec, and highlights the customs of the Meꞌphaa folks.

Amid a system that silences and erases marginalized voices, El Diario, together with their Telegram and WhatsApp teams, has been key in organizing a community-led technique that solutions on to the impacted communities. Each time an e-bike is stolen, a supply employee now is aware of the place to achieve out for assist. If the bicycle nonetheless has a tracker, a gaggle of three to 5 members goes to search for it. Or they publish a photograph on the Fb web page, alerting the members to concentrate in case somebody tries to promote the stolen bike. If that’s the case, once more, they set up and go as a staff to get well it.

“I’ve participated within the restoration of 5 bicycles. What makes me most pleased is seeing a compañero together with his recovered bike,” says Solano. “It’s harmful. We go with out weapons, knife, or razor when going to retrieve a bicycle. It’s like going to struggle with out weapons. As undocumented immigrants, we would not have that proper or that facility to hold a weapon as self-defense.”

The Willis Avenue Bridge, a key route for a lot of supply employees, has seen repeated assaults and robberies. In March, 29-year-old Francisco Villalva Vitinio, a supply employee additionally from Guerrero, was shot and killed close to the bridge when he refused to present his e-bike to a robber. Whereas they look forward to the NYPD to extend safety measures, Solano says, they are going to proceed to guard themselves. Each night time since June 14th, they’ve been taking turns watching over their colleagues as they cross the bridge en path to a supply.

“We’ve got been there nearly a month and the police have by no means come to accompany us. In the course of the day they’re there issuing tickets, however at night time they aren’t. What we’re going by means of is terrible,” provides Solano.

With each dwell stream of a vigil to demand justice for his or her killed compañeros, or of an evening spent defending fellow employees regardless of lengthy workdays, El Diario not solely earns new followers, but additionally positions itself as a digital house that homes a rising neighborhood motion. A movimiento led by employees who’re carving out an area in a rustic that continues to disclaim their proper to exist.

“We aren’t a corporation,” explains Solano. “We’re supply boys who wish to increase our voices. We demand outcomes and progress. We’re meals supply employees and wish to come collectively.”

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