When Uber launched its courier service, UberRUSH, two years ago, the company aggressively courted New York City’s bike messengers with the high hourly rate of $30 plus bonuses. “When UberRUSH first started out you made real bread,” says Gabriel Arjara, twenty, from the Bronx, who has been a bike messenger since he was fourteen. One week, Arjara says, he made close to $4,500. “Dudes were eating lobster for lunch,” Arjara says.
But within six months, workers say, the hourly rates began to drop, gradually, five dollars at a time, until bottoming out at around a $5 per diem for local deliveries. Likewise, the percentage of delivery commissions paid to UberRUSH messengers, who deliver everything from dress patents to sex toys, but who deliver more food than anything else, declined as well, from a high of 90 percent down to 50.