Instacart shoppers to strike for better protection against coronavirus

Shoppers wait in long lines as they purchase supplies in a grocery store in preparation of the Coronavirus outbreak, in Medina, Ohio March 15. Employees who shop for Instacart, the grocery delivery service that allows customers to order groceries for delivery through a smart phone app, have announced they plan to strike Monday to demand better protections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI

March 29 (UPI) — Employees who shop for Instacart, which allows customers to order groceries for delivery through a smart phone app, are planning to strike nationwide Monday to demand the company provide better protections amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a blog post this week the Gig Workers Collective announced they would refuse to accept orders until the company provides hazard pay, safety gear including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and soap — and expands paid sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who cannot currently work.

The strike announcement comes amid increasing demand for delivery services as restaurants close, local governments issue stay-at-home orders and public health officials ask individuals to decrease the number of visits they make to public places.

Instacart employs about 200,000 shoppers and plans to add 300,000 over the next three months, but it isn’t clear how many plan to participate in the action.

“While Instacart’s corporate employees are working from home, Instacart’s [gig workers] are working on the frontlines in the capacity of first responders,” Vanessa Bain, a lead organizer of the upcoming Instacart walkout and an Instacart gig worker in Menlo Park, California, told Vice, which first reported on the strike.

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Instacart’s shoppers are independent contractors who set their own schedules and pick up groceries at retailers that partner with the app.

Shoppers’ earnings can vary depending on how many batches they choose to shop. The company told the New York Times it was “committed to an earnings structure that offered upfront pay and guaranteed minimums, which can vary from $7 to $10 per batch, depending on the market.”

Shoppers are asking for hazard pay of an additional $5 per order, and they want the company to change the default tip amount in the app to at least 10% of the order total.

The company, along with Lyft, Uber, and a variety of other companies that hire independent contractors to provide services through an app, has offered up to two weeks of paid sick leave to its shoppers but only if they test positive for Covid-19, and the offer only lasts until April 8.

“The health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers and employees – is our first priority,” a company spokeswoman said. “We want to underscore that we absolutely respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns.”

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