Instacart workers seek strike as jobs get busier, riskier

'Instacart has still not provided essential protections to Shoppers on the front lines'

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Instacart shoppers are planning to strike on Monday, saying the grocery delivery company isn't doing enough for its gig workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Medium post published Friday, Instacart workers asked for proper protection — including hand sanitizer and wipes — hazard pay of $5 for each order and an extension of benefits to workers affected by the virus.

Instacart said Sunday it would soon provide workers with a new hand sanitizer upon request and outlined changes to its tip system. The group said the measures were too little too late.

As shelter-in-place orders become more common across the country, Americans are turning to grocery delivery services to get them what they need. However, as The Washington Post reported, many of the workers who perform those services don’t have adequate health care benefits or pay protection.

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"Instacart has turned this pandemic into a PR campaign, portraying itself the hero of families that are sheltered-in-place, isolated, or quarantined," the workers’ Medium post said. "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."

In an emailed statement to FOX Business, Instacart said it is focused on the health and safety of its shoppers, customers and employees.

“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” the company 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.”

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Instacart had previously promised to pay shoppers for up to 14 days if they were diagnosed with COVID-19 or put in mandatory isolation or quarantine by local or state officials -- though shoppers were only eligible for those benefits until April 8, according to the Medium post.

Instacart workers asked for an extension on time for those benefits, but also an expansion of workers who are eligible for the benefits to include shoppers with pre-existing conditions.

After the workers’ post on Friday, Instacart published its own Medium post to its workers in response.

“We’re immensely grateful for all that you do to support families and people in need by delivering their groceries and everyday goods,” the company said.

“You’re providing your neighbors and communities with an essential service, and we are incredibly proud of the Instacart shopper community,” it added.

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In the post, Instacart promised to fulfill one of the workers’ requests -- an extension for the 14 days of pay for diagnosed shoppers.

“We are extending this assistance for another 30 days — through May 8, 2020 — to ensure our community continues to be supported during this rapidly evolving situation,” Instacart wrote.

Instacart also promised that in-store shoppers, shift leads and site managers would receive bonuses -- ranging between $25 and $200 -- based on hours worked between March 15 and April 15. Individual shoppers may also be offered batch promotions, the company said.

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However, Instacart’s current response isn’t enough to stop the strike, one Instacart shopper who helped organize the walk-off told The Washington Post.

“They’re so tragically predictable,” Vanessa Bain told The Post. “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.”

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