Folks across San Francisco were jolted awake Saturday night, as their phones blared an Amber Alert message about two children abducted in Pacific Heights. According to a police spokesperson, a food delivery driver’s vehicle was stolen as he dropped off an order, the suspect taking off with the driver’s two kids inside. Immediately, crime discussion platforms like Nextdoor and Citizen were abuzz, with users wondering what the gig worker’s kids were doing in the van in the first place. But according to the delivery driver, he had no choice: His job with San Francisco-based Doordash is his sole source of income, and he doesn’t make enough to afford child care.
According to San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Michael Andraychak, Doordash worker and SF resident Jeffrey Fang parked his silver Honda Odyssey van on Jackson Street between Buchanan and Laguna Streets at 8:47 p.m. on February 6. He left the motor running as he dropped off an order with his kids, 4-year-old Winnifred and 1-year-old Sean, inside. Within moments, someone hopped into the van, peeling off into the night.
AMBER ALERT - San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin, and Santa Clara Counties— CHP - Alerts (@CHPAlerts) February 7, 2021
The abduction occurred at Jackson Street and Laguna Street, in the city of San Francisco@SFPD IF SEEN, CALL 9-1-1 pic.twitter.com/zl6rUkbKdr
After a multicounty search, including a block-by-block sweep by SFPD’s motorcycle unit, the kids were found safe at 1 a.m. on Sunday. The van was parked on an industrial block of Fitzgerald Avenue in the Bayview. The kids, who Andraychak says got a once-over at San Francisco General Hospital to ensure their well-being, were fine. The suspects, no details about whom are available, remain at large as of publication time.
Speaking with NBC Bay Area, Fang said, “I went in, it took about a minute, and when I came out a strange man was in my car in the driver’s seat. I approached him and opened my car and yelled and shouted at him.”
“I yelled at him and told him to get out and two of my kids are in the car,” Fang told ABC. His kids didn’t know what was going on, he said, “as they speak only Mandarin.” The driver took off anyway.
Facts:— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) February 7, 2021
1. Gig workers make too little to afford childcare while they work.
2. Prop 22 allows billion dollar corporations to deny any responsibility or have to provide any relief to workers traumatized on the job.
3. This is the “future of work” model pushed by far too many.
Speaking with the SF Chronicle, Fang said that he’s had no other choice but to take his kids with his as he makes Doordash deliveries, as the job doesn’t pay enough to allow him to afford childcare.
“As a gig economy worker, the money stops the minute you stop working, and the pay is already low enough as it is,” Fang told the Chron. “You’re not obligated to work more than you want, but in order to make ends meet, there are only certain hours good enough for you to really be out there,” which is why he’s been working the evening food delivery hours — the most lucrative ones for the app-based drivers — with kids in tow.
According to a Doordash spokesperson who spoke with the Chron, DoorDash workers in San Francisco earned “on average, more than $39 per hour in January.” But that number isn’t true by most workplace standards, based on what a Doordash spokesperson told eater SF.
According to Campbell Matthews, who per her LinkedIn is Doordash’s “Head of Public Affairs Communications, East,” that $39 figure only applies to “active time,” which she defines as “the time from when a Dasher accepts an order to when they’ve dropped it off at the customer.” It doesn’t apply to the rest of the time a driver might spend logged in and waiting for an order. In other words, it’s like if McDonald’s only paid its cashiers while a customer was placing or picking up an order, then refused to pay them in between patrons.
It’s math that Matthews says is justified as “time between active time can be spent working with another app, another job, or running personal errands while logged into the app.”
She refused to respond to repeated question on how many hours per a day is used to arrive that that $39 figure. Obviously, if the average Doordash worker is “active” for eight hours a day, that $39 figure means one thing. If the average “Dasher” is only “active” for one hour, it means another.
Doordash was one of the biggest backers of Prop 22, a $218 million campaign intended to deny workers like Fang basic protections like minimum wage, paid time off, and unemployment benefits. As part of Prop 22, Doordash offers folks like Fang a “minimum earnings guarantee” of 120 percent of the pickup location’s minimum wage “for active time on the platform,” that is, “time you’re on a delivery, starting from when you accept it.”
As Matthews noted, there is no promise of any payment, at all, when workers are on the clock the rest of a shift, a rule that Matthews ascribes to the Doordash-initated Prop 22. That rule means that delivery workers can make far less that minimum wage if orders aren’t being placed. That income issue, tweets worker advocates Gig Workers United, is why folks like Fang must work as their kids ride in the back, as since “Doordash pays workers below min wage ... [t]his leads to workers & their families not able to afford childcare.”
It was a concern echoed by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, whose AB5 legislation sought to require companies like Doordash to offer drivers like Fang the same protections must offer workers. “Gig workers make too little to afford childcare while they work,” she tweeted. “Prop 22 allows billion dollar corporations to deny any responsibility or have to provide any relief to workers traumatized on the job.” According to Gonzalez, Fang’s situation is “the ‘future of work’ model pushed by far too many.”
Mike Solana, a billionaire venture capitalist, is being intentionally obtuse about a DoorDash driver whose kids were kidnapped while he was driving.— Gig Workers Rising (@GigWorkersRise) February 8, 2021
It's dangerous DoorDash provides so little financial security a father is forced to drive w/his kids.
That's really damn basic. https://t.co/eUJPJ7nWtP
Doordash co-founder Tony Xu, who, like Fang, lives in San Francisco, said in a statement to the SF Chronicle: “We are incredibly relieved that the children are safe and have been reunited with their parents.” Unlike Fang, Xu became a billionaire in December, when Doordash’s IPO resulted in soaring stock prices for the company.
According to Matthews, after the kidnapping, “we provided direct financial support for Mr. Fang and will continue to provide support in any way possible.” When asked follow-up questions about the “direct financial support,” Matthews refused to elaborate, saying “out of respect for individuals’ privacy and confidentiality, it’s against our policy to share any direct communications between DoorDash and a Dasher with an external party.” She did not respond to questions requesting quantification of “any way possible.”
Far more transparent is the support Fang and his kids have received via a GoFundMe organized by KQED reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez. According to Rodriguez, he and Fang began a decade-long friendship when they were classmates at City College of San Francisco, where Fang was a student representative on the college board. He’s hopeful that the GoFundMe, which has generated extraordinary support since its launch this weekend, will “help the Fang family take some time off to rebound from this.”
Update February 9, 2021: This story has been edited to add comments from Doordash spokesperson Campbell Matthews.