Two months ago my entire life changed. In March, I worried about stocking up on toilet paper and buying masks. Then the state’s 40 million residents were asked to stay in their homes with limited social contact because of COVID-19 and I signed up to help bring food and supplies to people who can’t get out.
I’m an Army veteran who is now an on-demand delivery driver, one of the hundreds of thousands of drivers bringing meals, groceries and necessities to people across California. I used to drive rideshare, but after COVID-19 hit and rideshare slowed down, I just switched apps to deliver with Instacart, GrubHub and DoorDash and because of this flexibility, I can still earn income and help people during this pandemic.
The fact that I can immediately start to work without waiting to hear back if I’ve been hired, and then toggle between apps quickly and easily, has been a lifeline for me and all the people in my community who I’m delivering food to right now.
I helped a mom who thanked me because one of her family members had a compromised immune system so no one could go out. I spoke with a woman who told me on the phone that her husband had just had heart surgery and asked if I could leave the packages close to the door so she could lift them easier. And I remember a single mom who kept adding and removing items from her list while I was getting her groceries and apologized over and over because normally, she said, she would be shopping herself.
I know we’re in a crisis, and I am being extraordinarily careful myself, but the smiles and thank yous I get from doorways and windows when I show up with their order make me feel like I am making a difference. I feel fortunate that I’m able to help my community in this scary time.
I’m much better off as an independent delivery driver than being an employee — just like I have been as a rideshare driver. I have complete flexibility to control when I work and I can switch apps whenever I want to help in times of need to earn money. If I were an employee, there would be set shifts and schedules — I couldn’t drive whenever I want. Plus being an independent contractor at a time when a record number of employees are being laid off means I can stay afloat financially because I can easily earn on multiple platforms at once.
Californians will have a chance to vote on a ballot measure in November that combines the best of both worlds. It preserves the right and choice for drivers like me to work as independent contractors in control of our schedules plus it adds new benefits like a minimum earnings guarantees, health care contributions and protections against on the job injuries and accidents.
Many people have called what I’m doing an “essential service.” People are relying on us to bring them what they need and we’re helping to keep the economy going in tough times. And while helping people out is a bonus for me, I’m also able to earn an income and make a living when a lot of people have been laid off.
The Governor even tweeted out a special thank you to workers like me “who are helping us get through this.” We all need to focus on doing what we can to help those most in need, so that California gets through this difficult time together.
Alfred Porche III is a retired Army veteran who used to drive rideshare, but switched platforms to Instacart, DoorDash and GrubHub when the pandemic shut down much of the traffic in California. He does most of his delivery driving in San Diego.