Some Instacart shoppers walked off the job Monday across the U.S. and Canada, accusing the company of not giving them enough protections and pay during the coronavirus pandemic.
Instacart is one of several online grocery providers seeing a huge surge in demand with several states under stay-at-home orders. Last week, Instacart said it planned to double its workforce by hiring 300,000 shoppers over the next three months to meet customer demand in the U.S. and Canada.
But the San Francisco-based company, which locally provides delivery and pickup for Cub Foods, Lunds & Byerlys and Aldi, has come under fire in recent weeks from its independent workers who say it is not doing enough to protect and compensate them.
Last week, Instacart rolled out a number of protections for its hourly and full-time shoppers, including no-contact delivery and up to 14 days of pay for those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in mandatory isolation or quarantine.
In a Medium post Friday, the newly formed group Gig Workers Collective said Instacart is “profiting astronomically off of us literally risking our lives, all while refusing to provide us with effective protection, meaningful pay and meaningful benefits.”
The group outlined a list of demands, including providing workers with hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes/sprays and soap, and “hazard pay” — an extra $5 per order and defaulting the in-app tip amount to at least 10 percent of the order total.
They also asked for an extension and expansion of pay for workers impacted by COVID-19 to “anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a pre-existing condition that’s a known risk factor or requiring a self-quarantine.” The deadline to qualify for the 14-day paid leave policy should be extended beyond April 8, they said.
On Sunday, Instacart responded by announcing a number of changes. It has extended the leave policy deadline to May 8; added bonuses between $25 and $200; made no-contact delivery as the default setting for all deliveries; removed the “none” option in the customer tip settings; and set the tip amount to whatever a customer had previously tipped.
It also said it has begun manufacturing a liquid spray ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which will ship in the next week to workers who request it.
Instacart, which has seen year-over-year order volume grow by more than 150 percent over the past few weeks, said adding new shoppers to its platform “will help the company more effectively serve customers nationwide and support communities during this time of need.”
In a Sunday post, Gig Workers Collective called Instacart’s response to their demands a “sick joke” and “insulting.”
“Hazard pay went completely unaddressed,” the post read. “The average pay per order is well under $10. Workers should not be risking their lives for pocket change.”
Setting the tip amount to whatever a customer had previously tipped is “ridiculous,” the group said, “because most previous customers would have tipped a different (lesser) amount back when things were more normal.”
Workers have been asking for hand sanitizer for many weeks, the group said.
“The strike is still on,” the group said. “Stay safe, everyone.”
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