The Atlantic, “The Death of a Gig Worker”

An 8-year-old told me about Pablo Avendano’s death: “My dad’s friend was just killed riding his bike.” The 8-year-old was a friend of my son, Dai. I had taken the boys out for water ice in our neighborhood in Philadelphia. “He went out to work and he’s never coming back,” my son’s friend said, bobbing on his feet. “And he didn’t even like his job!” Avendano made deliveries through Caviar, the food-ordering app.“His boss is probably in trouble,” Dai said.

Avendano was joyous, passionate, a rush-seeker. He partied, always smiling. “Totally gregarious. Tequila bottles did not stay full,” his roommate told me. He gave his friends the impression that, when they spoke, they had his full attention. He looked for people who were alone, and tried to connect. “I never had a brother, but whenever I saw Avendano, we hugged, we kissed,” Randon Martin, a blue-eyed, dreadlocked young man who worked with Avendado, said. “I loved him, and he made you feel loved.”

Avendano, like many of his friends, considered himself an anarchist and a communist. He grew up in Miami and studied political science at Florida International University. While there he once slept in a cardboard hut on campus for three days in solidarity with the homeless in Miami’s Liberty City. He organized students in support of campus janitors fighting for higher wages. In Immokalee, Florida, he marched with workers against exploitative labor conditions in the tomato fields, part of a movement that would eventually result in a deal for better pay and working conditions. After college, Avendano worked in restaurants, in retail, and for cleaning and landscaping crews. He stayed political. Martin showed me a picture on his phone taken by the photographer Devin Allen during the 2015 Baltimore riots. In black and white, Avendano is smiling, washing pepper spray from his eyes with milk.

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