'A sick joke': Instacart workers strike after calling the company's response to their demands 'insulting'

Photo by Nick Otto for the Washington Post/Getty Images

Instacart workers are calling the grocery-delivery company’s response to their strike “insulting” and “a sick joke” as the company moves to meet some of their demands but leaves others unaddressed.

The workers are set to strike on Monday and demanded provisions like hazard pay of an additional $US5 per order, an automatic 10% tip, and safety equipment like hand sanitizer as they manage the risks from the coronavirus.

The company said on Sunday that it would provide hand sanitizer to workers within a week, and that it would use customers’ last tip as the default on new orders. Instacart said last week that it would offer a $US25 to $US200 bonus for workers dependent on their hours worked between March 15 and April 15, but did not commit to a per-order bonus.

Workers said the company’s response is “simply… not enough” and “insulting for a number of reasons.”

Instacart’s failure to address hazard pay “went completely unaddressed,” workers and the Gig Workers Collective, the group organising the strike, said in a Medium post responding to the company, saying that the average order pays “well under $US10.”

“Workers should not be risking their lives for pocket change,” the workers, called “Instacart Shoppers” internally, said in the statement.

They said that “setting the tip amount to whatever a customer had previously tipped is ridiculous, because most previous customers would have tipped a different (lesser) amount back when things were more normal,” workers said. “This will, in all likelihood, provide no meaningful benefit to Shoppers.”

Instacart told Business Insider in a statement that it’s providing an “essential service for millions of families, while providing immediate earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people across North America.”

The company also said that it “respect[s] the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns,” and that in the last week, 250,000 new people have signed up to work for Instacart and that 50,000 have already started working on the platform.

Instacart said on Monday that “as it relates to today’s actions, we’ve seen absolutely no impact to Instacart’s operations. Today, we saw 40% more shoppers on the platform compared to the same day and time last week.”

The group organising the strike had a different take.

“It’s not accurate,” a representative said. “Try placing an order in your city.”

The representative then sent Business Insider a screenshot showing a lack of delivery slots on Monday, and said that future orders were also unavailable.

“Considering this is a ‘same day’ delivery service, it seems they’re very short on shoppers,” she said. “We are absolutely disrupting their business.”

A review of the app in Salt Lake City, Utah, showed that Instacart deliveries were unavailable after Monday until Saturday, April 4.

The strike comes as Instacart seeks to hire 300,000 additional workers to deliver groceries to people during the coronavirus epidemic.

“The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history,” Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a blog post on Monday announcing the hirings.

Other companies like Target, Starbucks, and Trader Joe’s have adjusted worker pay and paid-leave policies as companies and employees deal with the fallout from the coronavirus.

The workers were also unsatisfied with the company’s move to provide hand sanitizer in a week, and said that workers have been asking for it for “many, many weeks.”

“Where was this before?” they said. “It’s abhorrent that it took this long for them to act, but on the bright side, it shows that a strike will work to change their behaviour.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.