Instacart workers are preparing to strike next week in response to the company’s lack of protections for employees who are risking their health and safety to perform their jobs amid the global coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 1,200 people in the U.S. alone.
Instacart shoppers (the name Instacart uses for its delivery workers) are required to shop for food and other products and then deliver them to customers who order through the app. This means that they are constantly exposing themselves to infection in regions where outbreaks are concentrated, and Instacart has failed to provide hazard pay or necessary sanitizing products to help its gig workers protect themselves as they continue to perform their jobs. As a result, workers have announced in a blog post that they’re striking March 30 to demand Instacart meet their demands for better working conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Instacart workers are asking that the company provide personal protective equipment, specifically hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes, sprays, and soaps. They are also asking that the company pay an additional hazard wage of $5 per order, in addition to defaulting the in-app tip to at least 10 percent. They further ask that the company expand covid-19 sick pay to those who can provide documentation from a doctor of health complications that put them at risk of injury or a note directing a self-isolation.
“Instacart has turned this pandemic into a PR campaign, portraying itself the hero of families that are sheltered-in-place, isolated, or quarantined,” the blog post states. “Instacart has still not provided essential protections to Shoppers on the front lines that could prevent them from becoming carriers, falling ill themselves, or worse. Instacart’s promise to pay Shoppers up to 14 days of pay if diagnosed or placed in mandatory quarantine not only falls short, but isn’t even being honored. Instacart knows it’s virtually impossible to meet their qualifications and is ignoring Shoppers’ pleas for more substantial and preventative help.”
Instacart workers specifically called out the company’s policy for up to 14 days of paid sick leave that was set to expire in little more than a week on April 8. In response to their action, the company stated in its own blog post that it will extend those benefits through May 8. The caveat—as is the case with most other tech companies whose workers are on the frontlines of this pandemic—is that workers must test positive for covid-19 or be placed in quarantine by a health authority. But tests are extremely limited right now, an issue that’s impacting the country’s ability to adequately gauge the disease’s spread.
Instacart has announced a number of other initiatives it’s now taking after workers threatened a strike. It’s adding bonuses for various Instacart workers that “will be determined based on the number of hours worked from March 15 through April 15 and will range from $25 to $200,” though this likely won’t meet the hazard pay demand of an additional $5 per order during the covid-19 outbreak. The company also said it’s rolling out contactless alcohol delivery in states that allow it as well as increased promotions that allow shoppers to earn more during their shifts during certain times. But again, this is not the same as providing the assured hazard pay that workers have asked for.
In a statement to Gizmodo, the company said that the health and safety of “shoppers, customers, and employees—is our first priority.
“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” a spokesperson said. “We want to underscore that we absolutely respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns. It’s a valuable way for us to continuously make improvements to the shopper experience and we’re committed to supporting this important community during this critical time.”
Earlier this week, Instacart announced that it was preparing to hire an additional 300,000 shoppers to meet the extraordinary demand for delivery services as people self-isolate and shelter at home. And in that message—much like Amazon has done—Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta expressed gratitude for “Instacart shoppers like you who have stepped up as household heroes during this time.”
But Instacart’s public messaging about its so-described “heroes” simply doesn’t jibe with its negligence about the health and safety of its workforce. If it really believed this was the case, it would step the fuck up and—at the absolute very least—compensate workers with something close to a decent wage.
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