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Instacart concedes some ground, makes contractors part-time employees

Kaitlin Myers a shopper for Instacart studies her smart phone as she  shops for a customer at Whole Foods in Denver.Kaitlin Myers a shopper for Instacart studies her smart phone as she  shops for a customer at Whole Foods in Denver.

Grocery delivery service Instacart will make some contracted workers into part-time employees, in what looks to be a limited victory for workers of the sharing economy.

The change will be rolled out in Boston and Chicago, and may be applied to other territories later, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe.

San Francisco-based Instacart is one of dozens of companies making hay in the so-called “sharing economy” where contractors do everything from driving people (Uber and Lyft); housing them (AirBNB); to performing any number of tasks from cooking to fixing things to cleaning (TaskRabbit).

 

The benefit to users is jobs done cheap and arguably better. The disadvantage is that there is now an army of workers toiling without salary or benefits, even when they work more than 40 hours a week.

That sparked concerns about the creation of a sort of permanent underclass. And that, in turn, has raised the ire of unions and politicians. U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, for example, has called for the creation of a social net for these workers.

The rise of Uber, in particular, touched off protests and calls for regulation. Last week the California Labor Board ruled that an Uber driver should be considered an employee, which could signal broader changes ahead.