Coronavirus pandemic concerns abound, Instacart workers are planning to go on strike following company-wide issues with paid sick leave and safety enhancement. According to reports from VICE News, workers say they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order and free safety gear (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and soap) to workers. The strike is scheduled to happen on Monday, March 30.
Workers are also demanding that the company expands its paid sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who have already been advised by their doctors not to work during the pandemic, because immunocompromised people and people with pre-existing conditions are one of the most at-risk populations right now.
Starting on Monday, Instacart gig employees plan to strike by refusing to accept orders from shoppers until the company provides the benefits they need to continue working in the safest way possible. The strike will last until Instacart agrees to the workers’ terms and provides them with the proper circumstances to work with fewer risks.
Currently, Instacart workers, like many workers across the country, have only been offered the standard two-week sick leave if they fall ill — however, the company will only provide paid sick leave if workers test positive and can provide proof — during a time when tests are limited and extremely hard to come by. However, Instacart's offer only stands until April 8, according to VICE, before the worst wave, or the peak of coronavirus cases, is thought to even hit the U.S.
The March 30 mass strike action is part of a larger string of strikes sweeping the United States, including strikes staged by Amazon workers, and plant workers in Georgia, who have walked off the job demanding stronger protections and benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. These strikes are specifically stage by affected gig economy workers, many of which are made to work up to 40 hours a week or more without the benefits of a steady, consistent full-time paycheck. Gig workers also don't receive benefits like health care and other protections, and may not be eligible to receive stimulus checks, either.
“While Instacart’s corporate employees are working from home, Instacart’s [gig workers] are working on the frontlines in the capacity of first responders,” Vanessa Bain, an Instacart worker and lead organizer of the upcoming Instacart walkout, told VICE’s Motherboard. “Instacart’s corporate employees are provided with health insurance, life insurance, and paid time off and [are] also eligible for sick pay and paid family leave. By contrast its [gig workers], who are putting their lives on the line to maintain daily operations are afforded none of these protections. Without [us], Instacart will grind to a halt. We deserve and demand better.”
This action also comes amidst Instacart’s quest to hire 300,000 additional workers to deliver groceries to people in need during the pandemic. Instacart delivery workers most recently went on strike in November 2019 for higher tips, where Instacart responded by eliminating workers’ bonuses, despite claiming no correlation.
“Instacart has been busy crafting a rather heroic public image as the saviors of families sheltered-in-place, and as the economic saviors of laid off workers—announcing Monday its plan to hire 300,000 new workers. In truth, Instacart is providing no protection to its existing [gig workers], and profiting significantly off of this pandemic,” Bain said.
For some, gig work is a side hustle. For many, it’s their whole living, and not having protections is risky. If Instacart workers carry through with the nationwide strike, it will be the first time that gig workers in the U.S. have walked off the job in response to coronavirus.