Update: This post has been updated with a statement sent to the Spoon by Vanessa Bain.
Grocery delivery startup Instacart today announced a number of new benefits for its Shoppers (the gig workers who actually go into the stores and deliver food). The new benefits come as Instacart shoppers were planning a nationwide strike this coming Monday, March 30, as first reported by Vice’s Motherboard.
The proposed strike was called in response to what was being called Instacart’s insufficient response to the dangers its Shoppers face during this COVID-19 epidemic. Vanessa Bain, an Instacart Shopper who has spearheaded previous gig worker stoppages at Instacart over its pay structure, laid out demands in a post on Medium:
On Monday, March 30, Shoppers will walk off of our jobs, and will not return to work until our demands are met. We demand that Instacart meet the following conditions:
- Safety precautions at no cost to workers — PPE (at minimum hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes/sprays and soap).
- Hazard pay — an extra $5 per order and defaulting the in-app tip amount to at least 10% of the order total.
- An extension and expansion of pay for workers impacted by COVID-19 — anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a preexisting condition that’s a known risk factor or requiring a self-quarantine.
- The deadline to qualify for these benefits must be extended beyond April 8th.
As Bain rightly points out, gig workers are on the front lines of this pandemic, venturing into public grocery stores on behalf of others, and making deliveries to strangers’ front doors. They are putting themselves at risk so people like you and me don’t have to venture out.
In a corporate blog post today, Instacart launched a number of new measures and benefits it was adding to help its Shoppers, including:
- Extending pay for those unable to work because they are stuck with COVID-19 or placed in isolation or quarantine because of the disease
- Additional bonuses for Shoppers ranging from $25 to $200
- Additional pay boosts through batch promotions
- Contactless alcohol delivery
Instacart also provided this statement via email to The Spoon:
“The health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority. Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely. 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.”
Will Instacart’s new moves be enough to ward off the strike? We reached out to Bain on Twitter, and will update this post as soon as we hear back. UPDATE: Bain sent us the following response:
Instacart’s response lacks any real substance. While I am glad they agreed to our fourth demand to extend the eligibility period for COVID-19 pay, they’ve provided no meaningful concessions to our demands in full. It’s far too little too late. We are still calling for an emergency walk off/work stoppage until our demands are met in full.
Instacart is busier than ever, thanks to people sheltering in place and social distancing, and to better accommodate its surge in demand, the company is looking to bring on an additional 300,000 shoppers in the coming months.
With unemployment spiking amid business closures, a lot of people will be looking to Instacart for some kind of steady paycheck. Ensuring that its growing workforce is fully prepared to face the challenges of this outbreak seems not only reasonable, but the morally correct thing to do. On a more personal note, I literally just got my parents to start using Instacart, and I’m sure they aren’t the only elderly (read: more at risk) people who are doing so. So here’s hoping Instacart and its Shoppers can iron all this out and truly be a force for good in these trying times.