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Instacart Workers Going On Strike As They Demand More Safety, Pay Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Instacart allows customers to order groceries online — but it's doing little to help worker stay safe as they venture out amid the pandemic, strike organizers said.

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LOGAN SQUARE — Instacart workers are planning a strike Monday as they demand the company provide them with more safety supplies and pay amid the pandemic.

Instacart allows customers to order groceries online; a worker, called a shopper, then goes to the store, gets the groceries and delivers them to the customer. That’s putting the workers at higher risk amid the pandemic, strike organizers have said.

Instacart is facing more demand than ever as people try to stay home and order delivery avoid coronavirus. But the company has ignored the pleas of shoppers — who are forced to venture out and risk the virus to make the deliveries — “for more substantial and preventative help,” according to Gig Workers Collective, a group that is helping organize the strike.

“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,” according to Gig Workers Collective. “We will not continue to work under these conditions.

“We will not risk our safety, our health, or our lives for a company that fails to adequately protect us, fails to adequately pay us, and fails to provide us with accessible benefits should we become sick.”

The shoppers won’t return to work until Instacart gives them free safety supplies, like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes; hazard pay of an extra $5 per order and a higher default tip of 10 percent; and an extension and expansion of pay for workers who have a preexisting condition or who must self-quarantine.

And though Instacart has offered up to two weeks pay for hourly and contract employees diagnosed with the virus, the deadline to apply for those benefits is only set to April 8. That must be extended, according to Gig Workers Collective, especially as “it’s virtually impossible to meet their qualifications” to get the pay.

The strike could cause a slowdown in grocery deliveries. Some customers have already reported having to wait days to get an Instacart order amid the surging demand for the service.

Shoppers do want to help their community members, according to Gig Workers Collective, but they believe they have “no choice but to not only walk off but to raise awareness [of] the company’s practices.”

“They are putting us directly in harm’s way while profiting greatly,” according to the group. “We cannot let this be considered normal.”

Early Monday, Instacart announced it would soon make hand sanitizer available to “full service shoppers,” who are contractors, though they’d have to order it online. The company also said it would make it easier for customers to set their own default tipping percentage in Instacart’s app, though it will not be set at 10 percent.

The company also extended the deadline to apply for benefits to May 6.

The strike is still on, according to CNN, with Gig Workers Collective noting Instacart still hadn’t addressed hazard pay and sick pay for workers.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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