Slavery mentality

Image: Fabio Perroni
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By VANESSA MONTEIRO*

Case of Nilton Ramon, motorcycle courier shot for not going up to his client's apartment, expresses racial hatred and not just labor conflict

Nilton Ramon de Oliveira, aged 24, was shot last Monday (5\03\2024) in the west zone of Rio de Janeiro after refusing to go upstairs to deliver an order to the apartment of his client, a military police officer. The shocking case was just the extreme of a situation that is common to app delivery people. The refusal to go up is one of the main points of confrontation between delivery drivers and customers which, far from being a mere coincidence, is an expression of the slave mentality that affects a majority black category.

After all, the same subservient attitude is not expected from other categories, such as postal workers, for example, against whom those who wait for their letter in their hands when left at the entrance of a building do not rise up hatefully.

Application companies cannot be held responsible for the occurrence of this type of conflict. As Liberato (2022) points out, delivery apps are not mere mediators between the customer, restaurant and delivery people, as they propagate, but “put customers and delivery people in confrontation, due to the way they manage and punish this workforce” (LIBERATO, 2022 ).

One of the central reasons for the delivery person's refusal to go up, therefore, has to do with the application's piece rate remuneration and the time pressure exerted on them; As they say, “time is money”. In this sense, the time spent on avoidable transportation by the delivery person not only means time in which other orders could be accepted, but also causes the application to compute the delivery made in a longer time, which can lead to more punishment mechanisms.

According to the Consumer Protection Institute (Idec), there is no law that addresses whether or not the delivery person is obliged to go to the customer's door at the time of delivery. Among the applications delivered There is no consensus on the procedure. iFood, already in 2021, claimed that “it does not make any demands on the delivery person to make the delivery directly to the customer's apartment”, as has now been stated in the case that victimized Nilton Ramon de Oliveira.

The lack of explicit guidance from application companies regarding labor regulation standards contributes to the delivery man-customer conflict, encouraging fragmentation and hierarchization instead of solidarity between workers. Platforms should advise, given that this is not a new or unusual problem, that customers who live in apartments go downstairs to collect their orders and, in the case of customers with reduced mobility, pay the delivery person an additional fee for going up to make the delivery.

The delivery man's refusal to go up must be seen beyond the time pressure imposed by the dynamics of platformed work. Just like the expectation of clients that they will rise, even more so when expressed through hatred, anger – and bullets – cannot be naturalized. On the part of the delivery man, there is a lot of justice in refusing to subordinate himself to a “boss-employee” relationship that does not exist, after all, the delivery man will not only not be paid for this journey but may be subsequently punished if he does not meet the delivery time.

As for the fury of this type of client, there is a clear servant culture so deeply rooted in the country of the “maid's room”, something that only a late abolition combined with the perpetuation of a racialized and segregated class structure can explain. Not surprisingly, this extreme case occurs in Rio de Janeiro, a city deeply marked by racial inequality. Let us remember the case of delivery man Max who was whipped in São Conrado in broad daylight.

Cases of disrespect, mistreatment and explicit violence against app delivery people have escalated and increasingly come to light. In the months of January and February this year alone, almost 13 thousand threats and attacks on app delivery people were registered by iFood. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the platform recorded four thousand cases of threats and attacks on delivery drivers from January to March this year. According to iFood's Psychological and Legal Support Center, 32% of registrations were due to threats and 25% due to physical aggression, with the majority being located in the most elite region, the south zone of the capital, with 42% of actions.

Recently, delivery man Éverton was arrested in Porto Alegre after being stabbed by a white man, a case that generated enormous commotion. However, just as in that case we looked at the racial disparity (the white aggressor was cleared, while the black victim was the target of State persecution) and made the issue of work invisible (the fact that the victim, in this case, was a delivery man), we do not We can now once again dissociate race and class and treat Nilton Ramon's case as a labor issue, making it impossible for the victim to be a young black man.

App delivery people are the ultimate expression of the overlap between race and class in platform capitalism. We need to overcome the analytical barrier that dissociates economic demands from those for reparation, recognition and racial justice, because, in the end, precariousness, invisibility and dehumanization are all under the aegis of the same neoliberal society.

*Vanessa Monteiro He has a master's degree in Anthropology from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).


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