Some Instacart gig workers are planning to strike Monday over a lack of safety measures by the company, according to reports and a letter posted by Gig Workers United, the organization that has called for the strike. Workers who participate will refuse to accept any orders until the company gives them $5 hazard pay and a default tip of 10% per order, free safety gear like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and extended paid leave for those with pre-existing conditions who have been advised not to work, according to the letter.
Over the weekend, Instacart beefed up its worker benefits package. It extended the deadline for its 14-day paid leave policy that covers hourly and full-time shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined an extra 30 days, to May 8. It also added a bonus system for in-store shoppers, introduced contactless alcohol delivery, retooled its tipping function to remove the no-tip option and announced it will begin distributing hand sanitizer to workers who request it.
On Sunday, Gig Workers Collective responded in a Medium post that the strike is still on. “Aside from simply not being enough, this is insulting for a number of reasons,” the organization wrote. “It’s abhorrent that it took this long for them to act, but on the bright side, it shows that a strike will work to change their behavior.”
It’s unclear how widespread this strike could be. Delivery drivers' and grocery workers' jobs are becoming riskier as the pandemic spreads, and Instacart did not meet all of the demands set down by Gig Workers Collective.
However, contractors may be content having a paying job at a time of growing unemployment. A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment during the week ended March 21, the Department of Labor said on Thursday — the biggest number of jobless claims in history, passing the previous record set in 1982.
During that same week, Instacart reported its order volume was up 150%, meaning there's been plenty of work for its contractors. The company is also in the process of hiring 300,000 workers across the country due to increased consumer demand.
Instacart has long faced calls from its contractors to improve payouts, and this is not the first time the company has faced a boycott from its workers. In January, Gig Workers Collective announced it would boycott over the 10% default tip reinstatement and in November Instacart shoppers carried out a three-day protest over the company's tipping policy.
But this strike, if widespread, could be disastrous for Instacart. The demand for grocery deliveries right now is sky-high and growing, with 31% of shoppers saying they bought groceries online over the past month, according to a Brick Meets Click and ShopperKit report. If Instacart can't meet that demand, retailers and shoppers will look to the company rather than to individual contractors for answers.
Across the country, grocers have been battling a surge in e-commerce demand. As more consumers practice social distancing and move their shopping online, companies are updating their back-end systems, retooling their sites and bringing on additional labor.