The COVID-19 pandemic has been bad for nearly everyone, but it has given grocery delivery companies a bit of a boost. Instacart, for one, is looking to hire another 300,000 contracted shoppers to meet the growing grocery demand. The company’s current shoppers don’t appear to have benefited from that growth, though. Due to what they’ve described as insufficient protection from coronavirus and lack of compensation for being on the front lines of the pandemic, Instacart gig workers are striking today.
In an open letter on Medium titled “Instacart Emergency Walk Off,” the Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective outlined its demands for the 175,000 employees. Those include: hazard pay of $5 an order, or 10% tip to every order; safety precautions at no cost to workers (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.); and paid leave for those with preexisting conditions or who must self-quarantine. They’re also asking for those demands to extend beyond April 8. The letter also calls Instacart’s bluff on providing paid leave for those infected or exposed to COVID-19, saying that that promise hasn’t been honored. “They are putting us directly in harm’s way while profiting greatly,” the Collective writes. “We cannot let this be considered normal.”
That letter was published on Friday. On Sunday, Instacart said it would begin making hand sanitizer available to “full service shoppers” who deliver groceries door-to-door. The company also said that instead of defaulting to the current 5% tip, the app will default to whatever the customer’s last tip was. But those concessions aren’t enough. On Sunday, the Gig Workers Collective rebutted with another strongly worded Medium post, headlined “Instacart’s ‘Response’ is a Sick Joke — The Strike is Still On.” A list of issues remain, including the fact that Instacart ignored the hazard pay demand. “The average pay per order is well under $10,” the post reads. “Workers should not be risking their lives for pocket change.” Cue up the Springsteen, baby.
Vice noted this wildcat strike is one of many from American workers who are demanding better coronavirus protection, including those from an Amazon warehouse in Queens, Pittsburgh sanitation, and a Perdue Farms poultry plant in Georgia. While these jobs are all deemed “essential,” what could be essential enough to risk the life of yourself, your friends, and your family?