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 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
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
— CHP – Alerts (@CHPAlerts) February 7, 2021
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.
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.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) February 7, 2021
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.” Efforts by Eater SF to confirm how many hours per day the average driver works were not responded to as of publication time.
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.”
There is no promise of any payment, at all, when workers are on the clock the rest of a shift, a plan that 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.
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
— Gig Workers Rising (@GigWorkersRise) February 8, 2021
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.” However, neither Xu nor his company have said if any additional financial support will be offered to the family. Unlike Fang, Xu became a billionaire in December, when Doordash’s IPO resulted in soaring stock prices for the company.
Instead, Fang and his kids are now reliant on 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.”