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Instacart shoppers threaten to strike Monday for better pay, coronavirus protections

“Instacart has still not provided essential protections to shoppers on the front lines that could prevent them from becoming carriers, falling ill themselves or worse,” according to a group representing its 150,000-plus shoppers.

An Instacart employee uses her cellphone to scan barcodes at a supermarket last week in North Hollywood, California. Shoppers are threatening to strike Monday if the company doesn’t provide bolstered safety protections and better pay.
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Chicagoans relying on Instacart soon might have to look elsewhere for help keeping their cupboards stocked during the coronavirus crisis.

Shoppers for the online grocery delivery service are threatening to strike Monday if the San Francisco-based company doesn’t meet their demands for more safety protections and better pay, as demand skyrockets during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective accused the company of turning “this pandemic into a PR campaign, portraying itself [as] the hero of families that are sheltered-in-place, isolated or quarantined.

But “Instacart has still not provided essential protections to shoppers on the front lines that could prevent them from becoming carriers, falling ill themselves or worse,” collective members said in a statement issued Friday.

Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta announced last week the company planned to nearly triple its ranks with an additional 300,000 full-service shoppers nationwide, as states have ordered residents to stay home and practice social distancing to contain the viral outbreak.

In a memo to shoppers, Mehta said the “last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history,” and said its in-store shoppers would “now have access to sick pay, an accrued benefit that can be used as paid time off if you’re absent from work due to illness or injury.”

The company is also providing shoppers with up to 14 days of extended pay if they’re diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to quarantine. It also rolled out a “Leave at My Door Delivery” feature to limit interactions.

“Our teams have also been working to improve your shopping experience to ensure you have the tools and resources you need during this busy time,” Mehta said.

The shoppers’ collective says that promise “not only falls short, but isn’t even being honored. Instacart knows it’s virtually impossible to meet their qualifications and is ignoring shoppers’ pleas for more substantial and preventative help.”

The shoppers say they’ll walk off the job Monday until the company provides hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and sprays or soap; hazard pay to the tune of $5 per order and default 10% tips; an extension and expansion of pay for workers “impacted by COVID-19,” including anyone forced into self-quarantine or with a doctor’s note for a preexisting condition; and a commitment to these new benefits beyond April 8.

“They are putting us directly in harm’s way while profiting greatly,” collective members said. “We cannot let this be considered normal.”

Instacart representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the strike threat.