Instacart employees plan nationwide strike as demand for grocery delivery soars amid coronavirus outbreak

Monday, March 30, 2020
Employees at grocery delivery service Instacart are planning a nationwide strike Monday as millions of Americans are relying on the company during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company's gig workers, called "shoppers," say delivery service puts them at risk to COVID-19 exposure and Instacart should offer more protections, including hazard pay.

"Basically, I'm playing Russian roulette every time I go out there, every time I shop, every time I come into a grocery store," said employee Mia Kelly.

The in-store shoppers demanding the company provide gloves, hand sanitizers and disinfectants, hazard pay of $5 per order and an expansion to the current sick-pay policy. Workers are also expected to demand a customer-tip default with guaranteed gratuity of at least 5% of the purchase unless the app user chooses a $0 tip.

Right now, Instacart says anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into mandatory isolation or quarantine will get up to 14 days of pay. The company says it is also offering access to cash bonuses amid the app's busiest month in its history.

"As the crisis unfolds, our teams are committed to continuing to deliver for all the communities we serve and ensuring our customers and shoppers can safely and reliably use Instacart," the company said in a written statement. "We're proud to be able to serve as an essential service for you and your loved ones during this critical time."

But shoppers like Vanessa Bain feel that with limited access to testing, the company's policy doesn't go far enough.

"They designed it that way to disqualify us ... if shoppers aren't healthy, if shoppers don't have meaningful access to sick pay, if shoppers aren't provided with necessary equipment to shop safely, customers are absolutely at risk," Bain said.

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The company told ABC News "the health and safety of our entire community -- shoppers, customers, and employees -- is our first priority."

Some customers, like Wendy DuCasse, are showing their appreciation for the workers.

She tweeted a picture of a gift left for her Instacart shopper: gloves, hand sanitizer, an extra tip and a handwritten note reading, "Thank you for your delivery service. We hope these are useful as you are working today! Much appreciated. Be safe!"

"I just felt like I needed to do something that let whoever was delivering my groceries know that I see them, I hear them and I support them," she said.

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Meanwhile, Instacart announced this week that it is looking to add 300,000 gig workers to its platform over the next three months, more than doubling the number of people it has picking and delivering groceries for customers.

Online retailers have seen demand for orders surge as more people are stuck at home and shopping online. Instacart said it will focus on bringing on more personal shoppers in 10 states where demand is the highest: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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