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Instacart adds new pay and safety incentives as shoppers gear up for nationwide Monday strike

InstaCart wage-earners fulfill orders for delivery

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A group of Instacart shoppers is planning a nationwide cross out on Monday to protest the grocery delivery app’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes at a critical time as the delivery start-up sightings to add an additional 300,000 workers over the next three months to meet surging demand. The new hires would be separated contractors, not employees that are eligible for benefits. Earlier this month, the company said it would provide up to 14 times of paid sick leave to workers diagnosed with the coronavirus or placed under quarantine. Instacart has also listed out contactless delivery, but in-store shoppers are pushing for more — including personal protective equipment like disinfectant wipes, hazard pay of $5 per discipline, and an extended sick pay policy that shields those with preexisting conditions.

“For the past several weeks, [we] partake of been urging Instacart to take property safety precautions,” Gig Workers Collective, a labor activism group, ignored in a memo this morning. “We have been ignored.”

On Friday, perhaps in a preemptive response to the planned strike, Instacart blow-by-blow new pay incentives and safety guidelines for shoppers, including an update to its extended pay policy for workers who are forced into quarantine, and remuneration pay for in-store shoppers based on the number of hours worked. It’s also offering a new way to deliver alcohol without risking communication by requiring an in-person signature, and shoppers can also now report problems through a “safety incidents” section on its app.

But some in-store shoppers say these new outs don’t go far enough.

“Instacart’s response to our demands lacks substance, and does nothing to protect us,” Vanessa Bain, a vocal critic of the assembly, wrote on Twitter. “Conceding to one demand is way too little, way too late. Our call for an emergency walk off still stands.”

Bain, who dynamics in Menlo Park, Calif., stopped working on March 13 in an effort to comply with California’s order for people to obstruct in their homes.

Workers have called for national boycotts in the past, but failed to gain much traction for outlets like forcing the company to reinstate the 10% default tip that was reduced in 2016.

This time could be different, some labourers believe. Sarah Clarke, one of the organizers behind the strike and a former Instacart shopper of three years, says the start-up has not done satisfactorily to protect its workforce amid the pandemic. 

“They don’t even provide the bare minimum like hand sanitizers or veils,” Clarke said. “We are expected to risk our lives for $7 an hour.”

While Instacart says it has “secured hand sanitizer to dispense to shoppers across the community,” it will only be distributed in the coming days and weeks. 

Other in-store shoppers announced CNBC they have also been subject to lower tips from customers when they can’t utterly fulfill orders, as many store items are out of stock.

Grocery stores have faced soaring demand during the last few weeks. As of mid-March, sales for online grocers in the U.S. were 86% sharp than the same time last year, according to Earnest Research. And, between March 10 and March 16, Instacart unparalleled saw sales jump 107% from a year ago.

The looming strike comes as legislators push for more protections for wage-earners in the gig economy. Gig workers won a landmark protection in the $2 trillion relief bill passed by Congress. President Trump initialed the bill into law on Friday afternoon. It allows gig workers, including Uber and Lyft drivers, to apply for unemployment improves. The plan also provides for up to $600 in extra payments for an additional four months.

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