Instacart says strike over coronavirus protections has had ‘absolutely no impact’

March 30, 2020, 9:15 PM UTC

Instacart said its operations on Monday have been unaffected by grocery delivery workers striking over demands that the company do more to protect them during the coronavirus outbreak.

“As it relates to today’s actions, we’ve seen absolutely no impact to Instacart’s operations,” the company said in a statement. “Today, we saw 40% more [workers] on the platform compared to the same day and time last week.”

A group of Instacart workers, who say they have 15,000 colleagues in their network, had called for a strike beginning on Monday after Instacart refused to meet the group’s demands to improve safety. The group wants safety gear for all workers, $5 hazard pay per delivery, and access to sick pay for at-risk workers and those who have symptoms of COVID-19.

In an effort to defuse the threatened strike, Instacart on Sunday said it had partnered with a third party to make hand sanitizer for workers. Instacart also said that it would allow customers to set the default tip amount, which would increase worker pay.

The strike comes during Instacart’s busiest period in its eight-year history, as more people use grocery delivery to reduce their exposure to the coronavirus in grocery stores and to avoid long lines. Within the past week, the number of customers has risen 40%, to the point that it has sold more groceries in the past 72 hours than in any other previous three-day period.

The strike at Instacart coincides with a similar strike by Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, N.Y., who walked out over their alleged lack of coronavirus protections. Meanwhile, workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods are reportedly planning a “sick out” Tuesday to demand better coronavirus protection, according to Vice.

Instacart is in the middle of a hiring spree after saying last week that it wanted to add 300,000 workers. So far, 250,000 people have signed up to deliver for the service, and about 50,000 of them have already started work.

Instacart relies on contractors to pick up groceries at supermarkets and then deliver them to customers. Furthermore, many of them work irregular hours, making it difficult to determine how many people participated in the strike.

On Friday, Instacart also announced that it had extended the window during which it would provide 14 days of pay to workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine, from April 8 to May 8. It also announced a bonus of up to $200 for employees, excluding Instacart’s delivery people (who are contractors), bonuses for workers who meet certain thresholds for the number of orders they handle, and the ability to deliver alcohol by getting a scanned image of a person’s ID from a distance instead of a written customer signature.

But the workers’ group said the changes, including Monday’s announcements, are insufficient. The group plans to continue the strike until all of their demands are met. 

“They’ve failed to meet in full, all but one of our demands,” said Vanessa Bain, one of the organizing Instacart activists, referring to the extension of the deadline for sick pay. “We are still calling upon shoppers to walk off.”

It’s unclear how many Instacart workers are participating in the strike, but Bain says she expects it to be “in the thousands.” 

“We will keep pushing for shoppers to walk off and not return until these demands are met in full,” she said. “It’s a matter of public safety.”

This is not the first time the activist group has staged a walkout at Instacart. Previously, workers staged a daylong strike demanding changes to tipping policies and improved transparency. Monday’s strike is the first one without a defined end date.

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