Photography is very important to Kevin Lopez. He has been taking photos since he was a child. When he joined LaGuardia, he was excited to pursue his passion and find some solidarity. But there was no structured group that catered exclusively to his lifelong love. “It was a good idea to start a Photography Club […]
On a recent evening, Carla is the only woman waiting on the line in her car on the corner of Broadway and 35th Street in Astoria. Carla requested to use only her first name due to her immigration status.
“Right now, this is a job I can do and that’s all I care about at this moment,” she said.
She’s not alone, though.
As she waits for her next delivery to pop up on her phone, she’s accompanied by her colleagues: four men between the ages of nineteen and thirty-four.
The pandemic and the resulting exodus of women from the workforce accelerated their integration into the gig economy. Before the pandemic, women represented over 50% of the workforce, but recent statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis show that nearly three million of them have either lost or left their jobs since March of 2020. At the same time, it appears that mobile apps like Doordash, Uber, Lyft, and other apps have proved to be a source of income for some of those women. Doordash, one of the top food delivery services, reports that 58% of their drivers are women, a steep increase in relation to their pre-pandemic numbers.
It’s hard to find statistics. Most of the existent studies and figures are provided by the companies themselves, but as we hear the personal stories of women joining and working these jobs, some trends emerge.
Before the pandemic, safety concerns were one of the most common reasons that women would cite as deterrents to joining rideshare or food delivery apps.
Carla says that she’s always had safety concerns but it’s hard to find a job when you don’t have papers and the food industry has suffered greatly in the last couple of years. “When you don’t have papers, it’s easier to get some work this way,” she adds. And it’s true. For many undocumented migrants, a source of income comes before any reservations they may have regarding low wages, lack of a steady income and health insurance, or even their own safety.
Whatever money is left at the end of the week, she sends home to Honduras.
“On a good day, I could make a little over $90, but on a bad day, maybe I’ll get around $40. If I didn’t have to send money home, I would probably go to school here,” she says. “I’m studying to get my GED and hopefully get into community college.”
Monica Martinez has a similar story.
“I was never really afraid of someone exposing himself while inside the car, but you never know. For me, the worst fear is having to deal with a violent customer,” says Martinez, who’s been driving for Uber and Lyft since she lost her job at a hair salon in Long Island City.
“At least now I can work when I want, and that’s great when you have children,” she says.
She explains that she wouldn’t be able to make ends meet if they depended solely on her income, but luckily her husband has been able to keep his job as a line cook at a restaurant in the same neighborhood.
Staying home to take care of her kids and working while her husband is at work has allowed her to save on childcare. She says she’s now considering getting a degree in healthcare.
“I make less money. But I am home more, and I have more freedom. Time is money,” she adds.