Pablo Avendano
Philadelphia, b.1983, d. 12.May.2018, killed by SUV on the job


Pablo Avendano was part of Philadelphia’s Sparrow Cycling Couriers bike messenger family. A motorist driving an SUV hit and killed Pablo while he was working an extra shift in bad weather for the food delivery app, Caviar. Pablo’s death sparked a conversation surrounding working conditions and practices of the on-demand gig economy towards its vulnerable workers.


Pablo, a fellow working courier, was fatally struck Saturday night in the bike lane on 10th and Spring Garden. He was following traffic laws and wearing a helmet. Our community, ( especially the Sparrow Courier family )while distraught of this accident, is strong by embracing and supporting one another. Tomorrow night is the ride or silence. Join us as we ride and remember our sisters and brothers fallen on these streets. The forecast expects rain-be prepared. - Philadelphia Bicycle Messenger Association
Another fallen brother that led to another community to mourn this tragedy. We face this fear every day at work. Pablo’s memorial, just like him,  was beautiful and truly magical. Rest in Power, Pablo. You’re still making history. - Philadelphia Bicycle Messenger Association
One week ago today I was filling in for another dispatcher and had the rare delight and privilege of getting to dispatch Pablo for one of his Tuesday morning shifts. Always so easy to work with and talk to and he was so very hard working. I won’t be able to say “Copy that 725,” ever again. - Stacy Grimes
For as much as I sometimes grumble about the day to day frustrations of helping to operate Sparrow, it’s a damn treasure. It’s not just a courier company, it’s a family of amazing people who care and support one another. Last night we lost part of our family and it’s a deep loss that will never be filled. Pablo was working Caviar on his bike during a time of heavy rain and was struck and killed by a car at 10th and Spring Garden. He was loved by everyone, myself included. 2018 can go fuck right off. - Stacy Grimes


Go fund me for Pablo:
Our dear friend and comrade Pablo was hit by a car and killed working a gig economy job that incentivize's riding a bike in dangerous and inclement weather. He was an amazing person; one who loved people and life. He was so much to so many, and now its time to be there for him and his family. PLEASE donate to help cover funeral expenses and travel costs for loved ones  This fundraiser is to cover the immediate costs, but we demand that Caviar reimburse his family for all travel and funeral costs.
Until the day we take everything and remake the world so it is no longer ordered to value things over precious humans, we'll keep the struggle going in. This is the only way to honor Pablo. He wouldn't have it any other way.


My Best Friend Lost His Life to the Gig Economy

Pablo Avendano was a food-delivery courier struggling to make ends meet. Then he was killed delivering an order.

By George Ciccariello-Maher
The Nation, July 10, 2018
It’s been almost two months now since 34-year-old Pablo Avendano was struck and killed on his bicycle in Philadelphia while working for the San Francisco–based food-delivery startup Caviar. Within a few short days of his death, a banner appeared near the scene at 10th and Spring Garden reading simply, “The Gig Economy Killed Pablo.” This wasn’t just hyperbole, and the questions raised by his death—and the gig economy as a whole—remain unanswered today. Pablo—whom I will call by his first name—was a close comrade and friend with whom I had organized for years, and until his death, he was my roommate as well. Our daily conversations offered a glimpse into the reality of today’s “gig economy,” in which intensifying exploitation masquerades as choice.
This is nothing new. From the beginning, capitalism has been based on a false choice: unlike feudalism, workers under capitalism are formally free to sell their labor on a free market. It’s not hard to spot the lie: If you don’t choose to do so, you starve. The choice is a false one, because workers have little control over the conditions of their labor and which choices are on the table to begin with. So the labor movement has historically fought to transform those conditions, winning important concessions around wages, health and other benefits, injury compensation, and union rights.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, however, flexibility and choice became code words for a shock doctrine that took advantage of the crisis to override or bypass workers’ protections entirely through a massive vanishing trick: With a flash and a puff of smoke, workers were no longer workers, but instead independent contractors. This legal loophole meant that they qualified for no benefits or protections and were simply opting into a “sharing economy” in which everything is shared—risk, social cost, medical expenses—everything but the profits, of course. The “gig economy” was born.
False choice is dispersed throughout this gig economy and taken to new extremes, epitomized by an absurd headline declaring that “Young people have embraced the gig economy.” In the wreckage of the post-2008 economy, millennials and others—student loans dwarfing their job prospects—were left scrambling for whatever work they could find and couldn’t afford to be picky. So now we “choose” whether or not to sell our labor, but we also “choose” when to do so, which gigs to accept and which to refuse, whether to work from home or not. But we still don’t get to choose the conditions under which those choices are made. Instead, those conditions are naturalized. It’s just the way things are: Your home is a hotel, your car is a taxi, and your bike is not for recreation anymore.
Founded in 2012, Caviar, like many of the food-delivery services that have invaded cities, is emblematic of a gig-economy business model that distributes social costs and risk onto the broader community. As one article about Pablo’s death puts it: “Caviar workers injured on the job often fall back on aging parents or adult siblings for housing when they can’t ride. Most Caviar workers depend on the goodwill of bicycle mechanic friends or sympathetic bike shops to keep them rolling (and thus eating) as their bicycles wear out from near constant use. This is all labor that maintains their workers, for which Caviar’s business model shirks responsibility.”
To be sure, working as a bike courier meant enduring dangerous and even abusive conditions long before the rise of the gig economy. For decades, the industry took advantage of a “vulnerable” workforce often made up of those with “murky immigration statuses, a willingness to work for tips alone and a fear of blowing the whistle on mistreatment,” as The New York Times reported in 2012. But with the rise of the gig economy—sometimes (and more accurately) described as the “on demand” economy—these abuses have spread and accelerated, with Caviar and other companies profiting off the vulnerability of independent contractors much the way independent restaurants have long profited off the vulnerability of unprotected and undocumented communities.
For more than two years as a Caviar courier, Pablo confronted this reality—a reality of vulnerability and false choice—on a daily basis. He had to wake up and decide whether to risk life and limb for a job with low pay and no benefits—making about $100 on a good shift, but as little as $30 on a bad one. But the alternative was not being able to pay the rent.
Conditions at Caviar weren’t always so challenging, couriers have said. One anonymous courier familiar with Caviar logistics in multiple cities explained how, as a young start-up, the company had made all its deliveries for a $9.99 flat fee, but by 2014—when Caviar was acquired by Square—it began operating on an algorithm-based model that claims to instantaneously match the supply of couriers with the demand for deliveries. As with Uber, Lyft, and other algorithm-based companies, Caviar enjoys an “immense data advantage” over customers and workers alike, with the algorithm functioning as a sort of proprietary black box offering delivery payments that couriers can only accept or reject, but not question. (That lack of transparency recently landed the company in the crosshairs of a class-action lawsuit in which customers charged that Caviar had collected gratuities from them but not passed the tips on to couriers. Caviar settled for $2.2 million but denied the allegations.)
The result has been a sort of race-to-the-bottom in which couriers—Pablo included—told me that they had to work longer hours and ride faster to make more deliveries: In other words, they had to take more risks. Some have even argued that Caviar incentivizes dangerous work in inclement conditions. When there was bad weather, like the day Pablo was killed, couriers might receive a peppy, emoji-adorned message. (“When it rains the orders POUR on Caviar!… Go online ASAP to cash in!” read a text received by another courier the day before Pablo died.) For couriers already struggling to make a living, it only made sense to work when conditions were bad, making an already dangerous job downright treacherous.
When contacted for comment, Caviar disagreed with these claims. In an email to The Nation, a spokesperson wrote that “Couriers choose to deliver with Caviar because it offers them flexibility and choice over where, how, and when to earn money. Caviar pays couriers very competitively because they have many options to choose from,” adding that average earnings for Caviar couriers is over $20 “per engaged hour.” While the spokesperson did not respond directly to the suggestion that Caviar incentivizes working in dangerous conditions, they insisted that, “During busy times—like dinner, Sunday nights, or events like the Super Bowl—Caviar offers couriers the opportunity to earn more money because we know their services are in high demand and they have many platforms to choose from.”
As it got harder and harder to eke out a living with Caviar, Pablo knew he needed to find an alternative, and for the past year he had been pursuing certification as a Spanish-language interpreter. But in the meantime, he had to work more and longer hours—often split shifts totaling more than six hours—assuming more risk in the process and often returning home to study for his interpreting exam only to be too exhausted to do so. In the gig economy, the trade-off between working more gigs and finding a way to escape is too much for many to navigate. But failing to do so proved fatal for Pablo.
In this equation, the consumer is no angel. As the name suggests, Caviar was designed to cater to an upscale clientele by offering food delivery from lavish restaurants, but it soon came to embody an absurd demand for convenience. I vividly remember Pablo’s astonishment that someone had ordered delivery on a quart of ice cream from all the way across town: They were willing to pay almost $10 for delivery on $6 worth of ice cream. And when the weather is bad, wealthier customers are more than willing to pay a premium for personal convenience even if it means putting others at risk.
There is an alternative. For the past year, Pablo also worked part-time for Sparrow Cycling Couriers, a worker-owned collective that, like Caviar, was founded in 2012. But unlike Caviar, Sparrow couriers keep 60 percent of their pay, with 40 percent covering rent and other collective expenses. If Sparrow were to turn a profit—they still haven’t—that profit would be shared as well, and all decisions are made collectively and by consensus. Sparrow founder Randon Martin told me that his goal was to “create an alternative, collectivist business model” that he hopes might provide “a positive model for non-hierarchical, worker-owned business.”
These two models are not complementary: When Caviar came to Philadelphia in late 2014, they undercut Sparrow (and other food-delivery services operating in the city) by temporarily offering free delivery. It isn’t hard to imagine how a startup sitting on more than $13 million in seed investments—not to mention an estimated $90 million sale to Square—could temporarily operate at a loss and effectively undermine smaller competitors, especially those that aspire to pay a living wage or more.
Martin recounts how one local restaurant—the progressively branded HipCityVeg—dropped Sparrow without warning in 2014. After more than two years with Sparrow, HipCityVeg—whose philosophy foregrounds a “compassion for all living things”—“dropped us just like that,” Martin recalls. That same day, Caviar launched its service in the city with HipCityVeg among its first slate of clients. Today, the company—which operates in more than a dozen cities—offers deliveries from hundreds of restaurants in Philadelphia, more than 40 of which are exclusive to Caviar. (HipCityVeg could not be reached for comment.)
While Caviar doesn’t pay by the hour, or even technically employ its army of independent contractors, it nevertheless insists that its couriers work for it and only for it in the course of making a delivery. According to Martin, many of the original Sparrow crew tried to avoid working for a company they saw as not only a competitor but a corporate adversary as well. But many newer couriers like Pablo—who was delivering for Caviar before Sparrow—again confronted a false choice, this time between their principles and paying the rent.
For now, Pablo’s family, friends, and comrades have issued a series of demands: that Caviar reimburse all travel and funeral expenses to Pablo’s family; that it “reclassify all its riders as W-2 employees, not independent contractors”; that it pay a living wage of $20 an hour plus benefits, hazard pay, and reimbursement for bike repair and maintenance; and crucially, that Caviar not obstruct the process of unionizing its couriers, as Pablo himself had hoped to do in the future. More than anything, Pablo wanted to help build a world where people don’t have to make such false and dangerous choices to survive.
Within an hour of these demands being released, Caviar sent a message to its own couriers lamenting Pablo’s death and noting that his colleagues at Sparrow “have opened their doors to friends, or anyone seeking comfort.” According to the Sparrow collective, Caviar did not reach out directly before sending this message. (Caviar told The Nation that the company “chose not to publicize any of our efforts to support Pablo’s friends and family.”) Like risk and liability, Caviar seems to want to outsource even the emotional labor of mourning to its independent contractors and society as whole.

Friends mourn Caviar courier killed by SUV at 'ghost bike' memorial

A professional bike courier killed while delivering food for Caviar was remembered by friends and family who bashed the gig economy.
By Kait Moore
Metro, May 20, 2018
Family, friends and fellow bikers dressed in black and biked from Tattooed Moms to 10th and Spring Garden streets, where he was killed delivering food for Caviar, an app that hires independent contractors to deliver food by bike.
A memorial “ghost bike” was put in place to commemorate Avendano’s life, just a day after 11-year-old Julian Angelucci was killed at 10th and Shunk streets, the second bicycle fatality of 2018.
In the drizzling rain, Avendano’s partner, Anne Marie Drolet, stood on the back of a pick-up and spoke to a large crowd of bicyclists in black that blocked traffic from the 900 block of Spring Garden.
She spoke of Avendano’s fight for a better life against a wage economy.
“I guess we liked being bike couriers, but we would complain about the people we were catering to, the bulls—t we had to put up with, and being a wage slave,” Drolet said, as the crowd cheered out in support.
“We were just trying to make it. We wanted to make a difference. He was the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I’ve never been so happy with anyone. I want to keep fighting for him.”
Many of Avendano’s friends spoke in honor of him and against the gig economy that they feel took his life.
“Pablo was killed because people were making off of what he was doing,” his friend George Ciccariello-Maher said.
“They were making money off not paying benefits. They were making money off the fact that he was nothing, not even a worker, just a number. These gig economy jobs, like Caviar, are killing people. And when they're not killing them, they’re making them suffer,” he said.
The crowd cheered and hollered out his name, “Pablo!” His brother, Bryan Avendano, shouted and banged a tambourine in his honor.
“He was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met,” Ciccariello-Maher said. “He was someone when the first time we met he felt like family and everyone else has said that. This was not particular to certain people. He wanted to spread his love and family across the world.”
Avendano’s friends and family are demanding that Caviar pay for the family’s funeral expenses. They also want Caviar to reclassify its riders as W-2 employees, offer a livable wage of $20 per hour, offer health benefits, hazard pay and maintenance/repair reimbursement.
A Caviar spokeswoman previously told the Inquirer the company is "seeing what we can do to help" Avendano's family. A Gofundme has also been set up to to raise money for the Avendano family at

The Death of a Gig Worker
An SUV killed Pablo Avendano as he picked up jobs for the food-delivering app Caviar. Who is responsible?
The Atlantic, June 1, 2018
An 8-year-old told me about Pablo Avendano’s death: “My dad’s friend was just killed riding his bike.” The 8-year-old was a friend of my son, Dai. I had taken the boys out for water ice in our neighborhood in Philadelphia. “He went out to work and he’s never coming back,” my son’s friend said, bobbing on his feet. “And he didn’t even like his job!” Avendano made deliveries through Caviar, the food-ordering app.“His boss is probably in trouble,” Dai said.
Avendano was joyous, passionate, a rush-seeker. He partied, always smiling. “Totally gregarious. Tequila bottles did not stay full,” his roommate told me. He gave his friends the impression that, when they spoke, they had his full attention. He looked for people who were alone, and tried to connect. “I never had a brother, but whenever I saw Avendano, we hugged, we kissed,” Randon Martin, a blue-eyed, dreadlocked young man who worked with Avendado, said. “I loved him, and he made you feel loved.”
Avendano, like many of his friends, considered himself an anarchist and a communist. He grew up in Miami and studied political science at Florida International University. While there he once slept in a cardboard hut on campus for three days in solidarity with the homeless in Miami’s Liberty City. He organized students in support of campus janitors fighting for higher wages. In Immokalee, Florida, he marched with workers against exploitative labor conditions in the tomato fields, part of a movement that would eventually result in a deal for better pay and working conditions. After college, Avendano worked in restaurants, in retail, and for cleaning and landscaping crews. He stayed political. Martin showed me a picture on his phone taken by the photographer Devin Allen during the 2015 Baltimore riots. In black and white, Avendano is smiling, washing pepper spray from his eyes with milk.
After moving to Philadelphia in his late twenties, Avendano started working as a bike courier for Sparrow Cycling Couriers, a worker-owned collective run out of a storefront in Center City. Sparrow’s couriers mostly deliver food and legal documents. They put business decisions to a vote, and their work earns them wages and a stake in the company. But for Avendano, it wasn’t enough to live on; to make rent, pay bills, and have fun. So he picked up delivery work through Caviar. As a Caviar courier, Avendano earned according to a formula that weighs demand, distance, and riders. He got a bump during peak hours: meal times and some other periods, as determined by the app. Rain, according to online postings from people identifying themselves as Caviar couriers, raises pay. Of course, rain also makes the work more dangerous. Avendano signed the 11-page Courier Agreement, which says in capital letters, in three separate provisions, that it disclaims liability for all work injuries, including death.
The evening of Saturday, May 12, the clouds had burst, pouring down rain, so people were ordering in. Avendano decided to deliver some food through Caviar to make some extra cash. He was riding his bike down Spring Garden Street, which divides Center City and the northern neighborhoods, when a Mitsubishi SUV struck and killed him.
Three hours later, Avendano’s younger brother Bryan and their mother, Graciela, were watching a Spanish show called Merlí on Netflix, at Graciela’s row home in south Philadelphia, when there was a knock on the door. Bryan answered and an officer asked whether Avendano lived there. Bryan balked. Avendano had always told them, “If the cops come looking for me, don’t let them in.” But Bryan did, shifted by a gravity in the officer’s voice. He found himself between the police officer in the foyer and his mother on the couch, translating as the officer told his mother that her eldest son was dead. Avendano was 34 years old.
One night not long after Avendano’s death, I went on the Ride of Silence, a yearly eight-mile procession that mourns cyclists killed in traffic. Three hundred or so cyclists gathered in the rain at the Art Museum for the pre-ride ceremony. The lead organizer read the names of the dead over a PA system. Avendano’s was the 11th name, the most recent death and the last on the list. The organizer flubbed the name and read, “Pedro—”
“Pablo!” came a shout from the crowd.
Avendano had friends there. Mostly young and clad in black, they held their bikes with one hand. With the other hand they held each other. Later that night, Avendano’s body was laid out in an open casket in a funeral home on South Broad. His face was pale, his eyelids bruise-dark. His body, dressed in a dark suit, somehow looked unharmed. Avendano’s mother, Graciela, knelt before the casket and sobbed and sang. His brother, Bryan, hit play on Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath,” and from speakers, rain and bells sounded.
At the Avendano family home, Pablo’s bike, the one he died on, leans against the wall, hemmed by flowers. On it sits a poster-board collage of photos. Avendano in cap and gown, graduating from Florida International University. Avendano and his brothers in karate gis, dukes up. Avendano had been the first of four sons. His parents called him Osito, or little bear. As a kid, he staged uprisings among his GI Joes, and as a teenager too young to drive, he dissected “Rage Against the Machine” lyrics. He started studying the Black Panthers, reading Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and sporting a Che Guevara T-shirt. His father Nicolas, who escaped Argentina’s Dirty War, worried that Avendano had no idea where revolution led. They fought, but Avendano didn’t change, and they had a falling out that left them estranged for years. Then, earlier this year, they started to text. On April 21st, Nicolas’ birthday, Avendano texted him birthday wishes and said that they should, at long last, get together. They never did.
Caviar represents itself as a food-ordering platform, not a food-delivery service. Couriers are not employees. Along with the millions of workers who earn through Uber, UberEats, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, TaskRabbit, and more, Caviar couriers are considered independent contractors. In this gig economy, liability for work injuries, including death, falls on the worker and their family. “All of us at Caviar are deeply saddened by this news,” a Caviar spokesperson wrote to me in a statement. “This is a horrible tragedy and our thoughts are with Pablo’s family. We will work closely with authorities and assist in any way we can."
Avendano knew that Caviar’s incentive structure could lead to danger, and that he was vulnerable. According to several friends, he talked about unionizing Caviar riders. But more than a union, Avendano wanted out. Bryan, his brother, who is a court interpreter, says that Avendano had started a course to become a translator. Avendano’s girlfriend, Anne Marie Drolet, also a Sparrow courier, said that she and Avendano had talked about becoming teachers, moving to Spain, and perhaps having children.
Since his death, Avendano’s friends have organized themselves into a group called The Friends and Comrades of Pablo Avendano, and they have demands. They want a union for Caviar couriers, a wage starting at $20 per hour, benefits including hazard pay, and for Caviar to reclassify couriers from independent contractors to W-2 employees. None of this appears likely to materialize—gig-economy companies have often brushed off similar demands in the past—but then, neither did the tomato workers’ demands back in Immokalee.
In fact, the lack of protection for couriers is not unique to gig-economy companies like Caviar. Sparrow couriers are independent contractors too (that’s the industry standard), albeit, in this unusual case, contractors with an ownership stake. Like all bike couriers, Sparrow riders sometimes get hit by cars. Sparrow carries liability insurance, which typically covers things like packages delivered, but no workers’-compensation insurance, which would cover harm to couriers. Martin told me that the day after Avendano died, he had called for a quote on a workers’-comp policy. The premium would bankrupt Sparrow. If Avendano had died on the job for Sparrow, there still would have been no coverage.
Still, Sparrow and Caviar are different in several ways that some workers find meaningful. Sparrow is made up of a dozen friends who work together, share profits, and make collective choices about whether, and how, to protect workers. To go without workers’ comp may be unfortunate, but it’s their decision. In contrast, Caviar’s parent company, Square, which brought in $669 million in revenue in the first three months of this year, is publicly traded. Its executives make decisions for the benefit of distant shareholders; workers’ well-being is not the only consideration.
The Friends and Comrades of Pablo Avendano, in a style that surely would have appealed to Avendano, began with a rally that doubled as a memorial service. A week after Avendano’s death, a few dozen of his friends gathered in a bar called Tattooed Moms. They took over the second floor, a windowless stretch of three chambers where every last inch of wall space is covered with scrawl, graffiti, and wheat-pasted art. After a few hours, Avendano’s friends trickled out onto the street. Graciela, Avendano’s mother, was there. As her son’s friends mounted their bikes, she screamed in the street, “Pablo, tu gente esta contigo!” Your people are with you. The riders cheered and howled, then some hundred of them rode off to the corner where their friend had died.
Some rode with lit road flares in hand. A few times, cyclists fished small chunks of concrete from their hoodies and pegged cars parked in the bike lane. No windows broke. The riders chanted, “Pablo! Viva Pablo!” and their voices resonated up the glass face of the convention center where Wizard World Con was underway. A couple cosplaying as Doctors Doom raised fists and cheered the riders.
On the intersection where Avendano was killed, more friends were waiting, and upon arrival, the procession shut down the eastbound lanes of traffic. The police arrived, in seven vehicles, but the atmosphere was neutral. Near the corner, someone had lit candles around the trunk of a tree. Black, red, and white scarves hung from the branches. Avendano’s friend Randon Martin, who had been a Sparrow co-worker, locked a “ghost bike”—a bike painted white to honor the dead—to the tree. Nearby, a banner hanging from an abandoned train trestle declared, “The gig economy killed Pablo. Rest In Power.”

Caviar delivery service to offer free accident insurance. Here's what that means for couriers, July 26, 2018
Just over two months after 34-year-old bike courier Pablo Avendano was hit by a car and killed at a Spring Garden intersection while working for online delivery service Caviar, the company has announced it will offer free accident insurance for all its couriers.
It’s a significant move, at the very least symbolically, for an employer in the on-demand gig economy: Caviar appears to be the first of its “tech start-up” cohort — think Uber, TaskRabbit, cleaning service Handy — to offer this type of insurance free. Uber has a similar offering, which it piloted in several states last year, but charges for it. These companies don’t offer traditional protections because their workers are considered independent contractors, not employees.
Caviar, which is run by a publicly traded San Francisco company called Square, said the move was not sparked by anything in particular.
“Simply, we feel that providing insurance to protect couriers while they’re actively delivering with Caviar is the right thing to do,” said Square spokesperson Katie Dally.
Avendano’s death has loomed large in Philadelphia and beyond, as an example of the dangers gig workers face and the protections they lack because of their status as independent contractors. “The Gig Economy Killed Pablo,” read a banner at 10th and Spring Garden Streets, where Avendano was killed.
The accident insurance, offered through a company called OneBeacon that brands itself as the “market leader in providing occupational injury products to transportation and gig economy companies,” includes:
·  Up to $1 million per accident for medical expenses.
·  $100,000 accidental death benefit if a worker dies, and survivor benefits for dependents of the worker.
·  Disability at 50 percent of a worker’s average weekly earnings across all on-demand platforms, like Uber and Postmates instead of just Caviar, up to $500 a week, for up to two years for temporary disability and five years for continuous disability.
The insurance only covers accidents that happen while a courier is on a delivery, not while the courier just has the app on. All couriers will automatically get the coverage, Dally said. It’s unclear if workers can opt out. Previously, couriers were not covered by any insurance, though the company required couriers who used their car or scooter to get vehicle insurance.
Dally could not share how much the insurance would cost the company but said, “We see minimal impact on our costs.”
IThese kinds of benefits are not always easy to claim after an accident.
“Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a fight on your hands,” said Shanin Specter of local personal injury law firm Kline & Specter.
If you think you’re too injured to work, for example, that’s not enough. The insurance company must also agree.
Some have also raised concerns about Uber’s accident insurance policy, which was developed by Aon and OneBeacon, the same company that’s working with Caviar. For one, Uber’s policy requires workers to identify as independent contractors in order to access benefits — notable because legal battles are being fought across the country over the topic of employee classification. In these cases, workers often want to be classified as employees, and employers want the independent contractor status because it is cheaper and allows for flexibility in how they manage their workforce.
Might providing insurance make a case against being able to classify workers as independent contractors? It’s not clear. Insurance coverage is an indication of employee status, said Fisher & Phillips partner Lori Armstrong Halber, but there are many other factors. And it’s not unusual for companies to provide accident insurance to their independent contractors, said Winebrake & Santillo partner Andy Santillo, but what is unusual is that Caviar is paying for the insurance. Companies normally charge for this kind of benefit, Santillo said.
Either way, Caviar couriers were cheered by the news. One suggested that it would make Caviar a more competitive option in a crowded online delivery landscape.
“If they offered a group health insurance, I could leave my day job,” said the 45-year-old courier, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of her day job finding out.
Another longtime courier, Michael Sanders, said he didn’t think it would affect his work that much but that it was nice to know that he’d have a form of support if he were to get into an accident. He added that insurance doesn’t stop aggressive drivers and road-rage situations, which he says are the most common dangerous incidents he encounters on the road.
Avendano’s best friend, George Ciccariello-Maher, is part of a group that, following Avendano’s death, has called for Caviar to classify its workers as employees, not independent contractors. “By assuming responsibility for its couriers,” Ciccariello-Maher said, Caviar was finally recognizing their true status as employees. He also said the company should send the $100,000 death benefit to Avendano’s family. (Friends of Avendano’s raised nearly $20,000 in a GoFundMe for his funeral expenses.)
Ciccariello-Maher sees the insurance offering as a victory of the “organized movement” fighting for gig workers’ rights.
Still, he said, “we must keep the pressure up until all demands are met.”