Gig worker group threatens strike at Instacart over coronavirus

Instacart, the popular grocery delivery company whose service area includes metro Atlanta, faces a possible strike by its personal shoppers Monday.

A labor organizing group calling itself the Gig Workers Collective posted a blog Friday alleging the delivery company isn’t doing enough to protect its shoppers, a network of largely independent contractors who lack health insurance and paid sick days. In the post, the group said Instacart has refused to provide personal protective equipment to gig workers and said other measures the company put in place don’t go far enough to protect the personal shoppers.

“They are profiting astronomically off of us literally risking our lives, all while refusing to provide us with effective protection, meaningful pay, and meaningful benefits,” the blog post said. “Shoppers have had enough. Instacart has refused to act proactively in the interests of its shoppers, customers, and public health, so we are forced to take matters into our own hands.”

In the gig economy, people work job-to-job with little security and few employment rights.

It’s unclear how widespread any strike might be and whether it might disrupt deliveries in Georgia or elsewhere.

In metro Atlanta, Instacart offers delivery of products from major retailers, including Costco, CVS, Fresh Market, Kroger, Publix, Sam's Club and Target.

The blog post states that workers will strike Monday if the company fails to provide hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes and other personal protective equipment and institute hazard pay of an additional $5 per order and make the app's default tip at least 10% of the total value of the order. Other demands include extending pay for gig workers affected by COVID-19, such as a doctor's note concerning a pre-existing condition or an order to self-quarantine.

Vice Motherboard and other national outlets previously reported the threatened strike.

In a statement, Instacart said, “the health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority.”

“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” the statement went on to say.

As more cities in Georgia and across the country implement stay-at-home orders, delivery services such as Instacart are in the spotlight.

In its own blog post over the weekend, Instacart announced new initiatives and said it was extending some benefits it enacted in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The company said it will offer up to 14 days of pay "for any hourly employee or full-service shopper who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in individual mandatory isolation or quarantine, as directed by a local, state, or public health authority." That benefit, which had been offered through April 8, was extended to May 8, the company's blog post said.

Instacart said it also is working with retailers to promote shopper safety and is instituting bonuses for some in-store shoppers, “contactless” payments for alcohol purchases and the ability for shoppers to report issues through the app.