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With Delivery Workers, Who’s Really in Charge?

Determining who controls the work of delivery drivers has major implications for the future of the business

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Third-party delivery apps depend on an entire gig workforce of drivers, bicyclists, and motorcyclists — the people on the go, handing you your food at your doorstep. More than one-third of U.S. workers are a part of the gig economy.

The major delivery apps often describe that workforce, their drivers and delivery workers, as partners. That’s the word Uber uses on its website. Meanwhile, Doordash’s pitch to potential delivery drivers is: “Your time. Your goals. You’re the boss.”

But many drivers and critics are saying that’s not necessarily true — that the relationship between gig worker and app is not an equal partnership. What the relationship truly is is up for debate right now and could be radically redefined moving forward — by voters, lawmakers, and the presidential administration.

All the tensions in the “partnership” between driver and delivery app come out in a bunch of small — and big — ways, in the daily lives of the people just doing the work. So in this episode of Land of the Giants: Delivery Wars, our podcast collaboration with Recode, we hear from those drivers as well as the experts on both sides of the debate.

Listen to episode three to hear about the tradeoff between flexibility and stability; the ways in which the apps, through incentives and punishments, control the actions of the drivers; and how legislators and voters are getting involved in this dynamic.


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