Gig workers for online grocery delivery service Instacart are planning a nationwide strike, saying the company has failed to provide them with safety essentials and paid sick leave as they work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers told Motherboard that, starting Monday, they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart meets their demands. They said they’re seeking $5 in additional hazard pay for each order, free safety provisions including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and soap, and paid sick leave for workers with preexisting conditions who have been advised not to work by their doctors.
Vanessa Bain, a California-based gig worker for Instacart and a lead organizer of the strike, told HuffPost, “Sadly Instacart’s lack of engagement is the norm.” She continued:
Our aim is to ensure public safety, and the safety of our Shoppers and customers. Instacart has refused to act, so we must. I am [hopeful] that other gig workers will mobilize around demands to protect workers as well, and ultimately that health and safety are prioritized above profit.
Workers from the Gig Workers Collective advocacy group told HuffPost in a statement that “Instacart has had several weeks to improve the safety conditions for workers.”
“They’ve ignored our requests, so an emergency walk off is our only option. Our lives are on the line at this point, and we cannot continue to work until our demands are met,” the statement said.
After initial publication of this story, Instacart told HuffPost in a statement that “we absolutely respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns.”
“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” the company said.
The company, which currently offers up to 14 days of pay for any hourly employee or full-service shopper who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in individual mandatory isolation or quarantine, also said it is “extending this assistance for another 30 days — through May 8, 2020 — to ensure our community continues to be supported during this rapidly evolving situation.”
Instacart also said it will be “introducing a bonus payment for in-store shoppers, shift leads, and site managers” that will be “based on the number of hours worked from March 15 through April 15 and will range from $25 to $200, to further support this community during this time.”
Still, the company did not acknowledge the other demands of the workers who are planning to strike.
Instacart, which says it is the largest grocery delivery network in North America, announced earlier this week that it would be hiring 300,000 additional full-service shoppers across the continent in the next three months given surging demand in the U.S. and Canada.
A spokesperson previously told HuffPost that in the last few weeks, Instacart has “seen the highest customer demand in company history” and is currently focusing on the busiest states, including California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia and Ohio.
The demand for online grocery delivery services has skyrocketed as people stay indoors in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Meeting that demand and keeping employees safe (and paid) has proven to be a struggle for many companies during this crisis. While Amazon Fresh says it’s hiring 100,000 more workers across the U.S. to get customers groceries quickly, employees describe being terrified of going to work.
“We’re all freaked out,” Monica Moody, who works at an Amazon warehouse in North Carolina, said on a call reported by HuffPost on Thursday. “Amazon is making us choose between coming to work or risk losing pay.”
Instacart was previously embroiled in a controversy over its treatment of gig workers in fall 2019. After shoppers for the site went on strike in an effort to demand that the company give them a default tip amount of 10% per order, the company reportedly eliminated an existing perk, a $3 bonus for each five-star rating they received from customers, mere days after the strike, according to Eater.
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