Instacart Workers On Strike EVEN THOUGH Company Agreed To Give Them ... Hand Sanitizer
One lesson we are learning (hopefully) during the COVID-19 pandemic is that, outside of people working in health care, the workers most necessary to our survival are those who are paid the least. Grocery store workers, Amazon warehouse employees, and gig economy workers like Instacart Shoppers have been on the front lines of this pandemic — and now, they wanna get paid like it. Or, you know, paid enough to survive and to make risking their lives every day so that the rest of us can shelter in place a little more worth it.
And today, in the first gig economy strike of the coronavirus era, Instacart workers are on strike for some extremely basic protections and not that much more money.
They're really not asking for much. They're asking for hazard pay of just five dollars more per order, hand sanitizer (which I think we'd all like them to have), sick pay (which, again, would benefit us all), and for the default tip amount in the app to be 10 percent rather than five percent. That doesn't mean that this is what customers will actually pay, just what will come up first before they make any adjustments. That's nothing! I regularly adjust my tip amount in apps (to tip more, not less) and I assure you it takes all of five seconds. Starting out with a 10 percent tip will simply make customers more likely to tip that amount or above, by making it look like tipping five percent is for cheapskates, which it is.
Organizers of the strike are pointing out that Instacart's corporate employees, who are working from home rather than on the frontlines, get sick pay and health insurance, while Shoppers do not.
"While Instacart's corporate employees are working from home, Instacart's [gig workers] are working on the frontlines in the capacity of first responders," Vanessa Bain, a lead organizer of the upcoming Instacart walkout, and an Instacart gig worker in Menlo Park, California, told Motherboard. "Instacart's corporate employees are provided with health insurance, life insurance, and paid time off and [are] also eligible for sick pay and paid family leave. By contrast its [gig workers], who are putting their lives on the line to maintain daily operations are afforded none of these protections. Without [us], Instacart will grind to a halt. We deserve and demand better."
In an attempt to stave off the strike, Instacart countered on Sunday with an offer to get workers hand sanitizer and change the default tip amount to whatever customers last tipped. According to both common sense and the Gig Workers Collective, which is organizing the strike, this is not enough. The company did not even address their request for five extra dollars per order for hazard pay. We guess if they don't mention it, people will forget.
It sucks that we have to do this piecemeal. It sucks that people don't just already have health care and sick pay and paid time off like they have in normal countries. It sucks that workers who are going around touching food and delivering it to people need to strike in order to get hand sanitizer.
Right now, the United States is reminiscent of a shabbily constructed boat that keeps springing leaks everywhere, and we've all gotta keep running around plugging up those leaks every day in order to stay afloat. We wouldn't have to be doing that if we had a more solidly constructed boat to begin with. Having a system that really only works for well-off people works poorly for everyone when so many of the people we are all relying on to help us get through this are the people who get screwed.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse