U-Haul day laborer
A day laborer poses for a portrait outside the U-Haul Moving & Storage at Candlestick, San Francisco. Photo by Yujie Zhou. Taken Sep. 5, 2022.

Sometimes, being able to work for app-based platforms like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash can be a privilege. This is especially true for the two dozen day laborers who spend ten hours a day waiting for work outside the U-Haul Moving & Storage at Candlestick in San Francisco. 

The majority of them are undocumented immigrants, and the lack of a Social Security number makes it impossible to register with gig apps. Or, in the words of one worker, “I don’t have a Green Card.”

Having been left out by the “gig economy,” they’re forced to find gig work on their own. 

Whenever a customer drives through the gate leaving the U-Haul lot on Bayshore Boulevard, the laborers, anywhere from 19 to 60 and older, lean in and ask if they can help. They either jump into the customer’s U-Haul, or follow along in their own trucks. But even this simple action has its own rules.

The laborers have been at the gate for years, he said. And, though they aren’t affiliated with the company, U-Haul doesn’t mind having them there, he said.

The work isn’t always easy or available. Javier, 49, didn’t have a single customer on Labor Day. Instead, he was just one of the many workers sitting around, playing conquian, a Mexican card game, and waiting for work that didn’t come. But even then, the work does offer advantages.

“I come here to look for friends,” Javier added, sipping a Corona kept cold in a shared thermos.

What worries them most is the police. “Everyone has family, some in South America, some in the Philippines. They have to pay rent,”  said 45-year-old Jose.

The arrangement works best if the worker speaks English. Cesar Andoni, 38-year-old from Honduras who has been here for four years, and is one of the only two in the group who speaks fluent English. 

As a result, he rarely struggles to get orders. When customers arrive, “They trust us. They point to us,” he said. The same is true of U-Haul staffers. On occasion, he’s even been allowed to approach customers inside the U-Haul building. His four men also follow him faithfully, although “I only bring them when there is a bigger job,” Andoni said.

This morning he only got “a small job,” or $120, for two and a half hours of work.

As to why he keeps returning, Andoni said, “I prefer doing my own business.” He even has a business card with his own company written on it: “GOOD DEAL FREIGHT INC.”

Uber pays N.J. $100 million for misclassifying drivers as independent contractors

Over the years, gig companies such as Uber have been campaigning against attempts by nationwide legislators to designate its drivers as workers. A settlement between the ride-hailing giant and the state of New Jersey appears to mark the company’s concession in this battle, which has long remained as an impasse.

According to the New York Times, Uber paid the state $100 million in back taxes on Monday, after the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development revealed that the company and a subsidiary owed four years of back taxes as a result of misclassifying drivers as contractors instead of employees. The payment concerns 91,000 Uber drivers who worked in New Jersey in one of the four years during this period.

“Our efforts to combat worker misclassification in New Jersey are continuing to move forward,” Robert Asaro-Angelo, the department’s commissioner, told the Times. “This shows that these workers in New Jersey are presumed to be employees. No matter what a company’s business model or what their technology is, workers have rights.”

Even after paying the back taxes, the company insists that its workers are independent contractors. Who knows what will happen next year.

Uber Eats driver offers a vivid portrayal of the ‘addiction’ of gig work

Margaret Dodge started delivering food on Uber Eats months ago, after losing her job as a full-time editor. Soon, she found she “got hooked on Uber Eats. Not as a customer; as a delivery driver.”

The opening of her personal essay on Salon reads: “It’s a Saturday night, and I’m stopped at a red light on Sunset Boulevard. My gaze travels to strangers on patios laughing, drinking and eating delicious-looking meals. I’m achy from being stuffed into my driver’s seat for hours. Hunger burns a hole in my stomach. My jeans are uncomfortably snug, reminding me it’s an inconvenient time for another bathroom break. Many restaurants won’t let me use their restroom when I’m picking up an order, so I have to hold it until one that will. My car smells like the last three things I delivered — Japanese seafood, barbecued meat and the Chick-fil-A I just dropped off at a Bel Air mansion. I’m a vegetarian.” 

Check out the rest of the article here.

Taxi drivers in Brussels say no to ‘Uberisation’ in Europe

As Uber continues partnering with all taxi cabs in San Francisco, in Brussels, Belgium, hundreds of taxis blocked the road outside the European Commission building on Sept. 8 to protest against “Uberisation” in Europe. About 600 taxi drivers from Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium joined the mobilization, according to Brave New Europe.

In the Alternatives to Uberisation conference, prior to the demonstration, Sam Bouchal, General Secretary of the Brussels Federation of Taxis, said that they “decided to kick off the demonstration because of the Uber Files revelations.”

“Taxis were the guinea pigs of Uberisation; at first they applied it to us, and now they apply it to everyone. Uber isn’t really an economic project, it’s a political project. The aim is to scrap employment legislation with ‘flexibility,’” he said.

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble but the Day Laborers at the Candlestick U-Haul store do not equate a trip to Disneyland. As a female (former) U-Haul customer, I did not appreciate the men trying to flag me down everytime I tried to enter the parking lot. I am not going to ask a man to follow me to my locker in an empty building for assistance. I’d rather break my back moving items myself. Folks would enter the supposed secure building to use the bathroom. It is one of the reasons I stopped going to that location and renting a storage space. If the guys playing cards and drinking Corona are employees then put them on the U-Haul advertising. ” Meet our moving team!” I rather contact the Day Labor organization on Cesar Chavez if I need help.