Gig workers have become akin to first responders for some people during the crisis, but they perform this labor without meaningful health benefits or pay protection. Instacart hasn’t provided workers with any hand sanitizers or protection, Vanessa Bain, a veteran shopper for Instacart who helped organize the strike, told The Washington Post.
“It’s so scary to be in a grocery store right now, and so scary to be around swarm and mobs of people,” she said. “I would convey to customers that we are also doing this out of interest in protecting them.”
Instacart workers are asking for hand sanitizer and disinfectant, an additional $5 per order in hazard pay, as well as for the default tip to be set to 10 percent, rather than 5 percent. They are also seeking an indefinite extension of pay for workers impacted by covid-19, including “anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a preexisting condition that’s a known risk factor or requiring a self-quarantine.”
The strike will continue until Instacart, which has raised $1.95 billion in venture capital, according to Pitchbook, agrees to the terms, according to a Medium post outlining their terms.
Hours after news of the strike broke, the company published a Medium post announcing some small additional measures for workers, including additional bonuses for in-store shoppers, shift leads, and site managers, a small percentage of its 200,000-person workforce. Instacart also extended the 14-day benefit for those diagnosed or in quarantine by an additional 30 days.
“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” spokesperson Natalia Montalvo said in a statement.
“They’re so tragically predictable,” said Bain. “Walk-off is still on, this addresses one of our four demands, and it’s the least meaningful, because workers can’t actually access the sick pay.”
Instacart was already struggling to keep up with the surge in demand. The company said on Monday it was seeking to hire an additional 300,000 workers, who are not considered full-time employees. Amazon’s Prime Now also been experiencing disruptions. (The Washington Post is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.)
Earlier in March, before as many people were sheltering in place, Montalvo told The Post that growth has surged by 10 times in California and Washington and by 20 times in New York and that searches for hand sanitizer increased by 23 times.
On social media, customers have been flooding Instacart workers with gratitude and praise.
Users often post images of texts with their shoppers.
Customers have also been watching the app intently and reaching out to customer service as items in their orders go out of stock.
Users anxiously await responses from the company.
The same workers that vulnerable people around the country now depend on say Instacart has left them defenseless against the novel coronavirus.
Workers in a national Facebook group with more than 15,000 members responded eagerly when the strike was announced Friday, Bain said.
“Instacart has turned this pandemic into a PR campaign, portraying itself [as] the hero of families that are sheltered-in-place, isolated, or quarantined,” the organizers wrote in a Medium post Monday morning. “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.”