Spare a thought for Gustavo, the guy delivering your ramen in the wildfire smoke
As many New Yorkers isolated inside this week to avoid the smoke that enveloped the city, one man was rushing ramen across town for a customer's dinner. He's one of thousands of workers who just had to suck it up — literally.
Who is he? Gustavo Ajche is a food delivery driver and construction worker in New York City. He's also the founder of labor group Los Deliveristas Unidos and a member of the Workers Justice Project, a group that fights for better working conditions.
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What's the big deal? Aside from the raging wildfires, increasing global temperatures, and hazardous air quality for millions of people in North America?
What's he saying? Ajche spoke with NPR about what it was like delivering this week as a smoky haze blanketed his city.
This interview was originally conducted in Spanish, and has been translated to English.
On delivering on Tuesday:
I had seen that they were saying this was coming, but I didn't imagine it would be at this magnitude.
On Tuesday, when I set out for the day, I started realizing there was a burnt odor in the air, and as the hours passed by the atmosphere and the weather began to deteriorate.
But that day, I didn't really pay much attention. I went out without anything. It wasn't until I got home that evening that I felt a burning sensation in my throat, my eyes, and a headache.
I just took a shower, took some Aspirin and went to bed.
And Wednesday, when conditions became even worse in New York:
I wore a mask, and that helped, but I didn't have any protection for my eyes. So what I would do, is I would go to the bathroom, wet some paper towels, and wipe my eyes off. And that's just how the day went by.
Once again, we delivery drivers were demonstrating that we are essential workers in this city.
There are plenty of people in this city with asthma and other medical conditions, but there were also [thousands of] delivery workers on the streets on these days that were working nonstop. In fact, they were particularly busy days for us.
New York is predisposed to extreme weather conditions, be it extreme heat, extreme cold, storms, or other events like the pandemic. Delivery drivers have been working through it all.
On tipping during the extreme smoke:
I did notice that people were tipping a bit more. I work in the same areas, and see a lot of the same customers, and a regular that would normally tip $4 would tip $6-$7 instead.
But I don't think tipping more justifies it. As delivery workers, we're doing essential work, and I think the just and dignified thanks for our labor is to pay us the minimum wage.
poor air quality hurts your eyes after spending several hours on the street— gustavo ajche (@AjcheGustavo) June 7, 2023
So, what now?
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