Instacart Shoppers Plan to Strike Over Coronavirus Protections

Employees of Instacart, a tech company that delivers groceries and other household items ordered through an app, plan a nationwide strike on Monday, maintaining that the company has not provided them with supplies to protect them from being infected during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is unclear how many employees might strike. The company has approximately 200,000 shoppers, with plans to add 300,000 over the next three months.

The shoppers are independent contractors who can work as little or as much as they want. On average, they shop fewer than 10 hours per week, said the company, which partners with more than 350 retailers, including Costco, CVS Pharmacy, Petco, Target and Wegmans.

The planned strike comes as more and more people stay at home during the pandemic and come to rely on grocery delivery services to avoid visits to public spaces like supermarkets.

In an announcement with the Gig Workers Collective, an activist group, Instacart employees said the company’s “mistreatment of shoppers has stooped to an all-time low.”

“They are profiting astronomically off of us literally risking our lives, all while refusing to provide us with effective protection, meaningful pay and meaningful benefits,” the announcement said.

Instacart workers are demanding that the company supply them with personal protection equipment, like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, sprays and soap.

Workers have asked for hazard pay — an extra $5 per order — and for the default of the in-app tip to be set to at least 10 percent of the order total. They are also seeking an expansion of pay for workers affected by Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Shoppers’ earnings vary depending on how many batches they choose to shop. The company said 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, and do not include customer tips.

The company this month announced new guidelines and policies to support the health and safety of its shoppers during the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to more than 1,800 deaths and more than 100,000 infections in the United States.

The company said it had secured hand sanitizer for the workers and that it would extend to May 8 its 14-day paid leave policy of hourly employees and full-service shoppers who have Covid-19 or are placed in isolation.

The company also said it would offer bonus pay of $25 to $200 for select employees based on hours worked from March 15 through April 15.

“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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