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Gig Workers Collective was born at the beginning of the cursed year, 2020. While this year has been the most challenging year in our over four years of organizing, it has also been the most critical and in many ways the most successful to date. The onset of a global pandemic thrust our collective into a national spotlight and has since been both formative and foundational to our collective’s DNA.

As a result of finally being able to dedicate ourselves to organizing full-time, we have been able to accomplish so much since Gig Workers Collective launched in February 2020. Instacart extended their COVID-19 sick pay policy and secured PPE for frontline essential gig workers after we staged an emergency walk off on March 30th. We were able to successfully pressure Instacart to honor its commitment to pay its Shoppers, like Alejo, who became sick while delivering groceries at the beginning of the pandemic. …

When Gig Workers Collective members first started to organize in 2016, gig companies were considered to be exciting startups that were lauded for their low prices and ease of accessibility for their services. It was hard to get anyone to understand that this was all at the expense of the worker, and that these people were being exploited because labor laws hadn’t caught up with the pace of technology. We spent the past 4 years pushing back against the exploitation and helping people understand just how toxic this industry is. …

Gig Workers Collective is a nonprofit grassroots worker collective that engages in worker-led worker-organizing and advocacy in the gig economy. The following Op-Ed is undersigned by the collective and its membership imploring voters to vote no on Proposition 22.

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As gig workers, we are finding it extremely difficult to project our voices over the sea of misinformation and propaganda Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates have created around California’s Proposition 22. Five of the richest gig companies have spent nearly $200 million to persuade the electorate to allow them to not only exempt us from employment rights and protections, but also literally to write their own labor laws in their place wherein they act as the proverbial judge, jury, and executioner for each gig worker. …

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image via the Guardian

At the onset of the pandemic, Instacart Shoppers took on a new role as first responders. Providing an essential service to families sheltered in place, Shoppers found the scope of their work shifted significantly away from providing a luxury service to customers to keeping entire communities safe. Anyone who could afford to began ordering groceries online, essentially contracting their risks onto Shoppers, all while Instacart has failed to provide Shoppers with PPE, hazard pay, or meaningful sick pay. …

Today Senators Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Chris Van Hollen published two letters calling for an investigation into Instacart and other delivery services’ deceptive acts around the issue of tip-baiting. We commend their call to action and join their demand for an investigation into Instacart’s unethical tipping practices.

Instacart has a well-established history of manipulative and unfair tipping practices, including reducing default tip amounts, misappropriating and withholding tips, utilizing tips to offset and reduce Instacart’s contributions to shopper compensation, and allowing customers to zero-out or modify their tip for a full 72 hours post-delivery.

Instacart knows full well that most customers will tip the default percentage established by Instacart, and still, in April 2018, Instacart cut tip defaults from a universal 10% to 5%. Industry standards for tips typically start at 15%, (GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats) with some services defaulting to minimums of 20%. Shoppers have voiced grievances and organized walk-offs in attempts to get Instacart to raise default tip amounts. Instacart President, Nilam Ganenthiran, responded by defending 5% tip defaults, stating that Instacart should not be held to the same standards as their competitors when it comes to tips. …

For months, Instacart has held up it’s response to the pandemic as a humane and reasonable response to the pandemic’s effects on workers and customers. Their program has entailed — allegedly — sick pay for workers who have tested positive, as well as adequate PPE. Today we can reveal that an active Instacart worker who is currently on a ventilator has been *denied* payment and healthcare under Instacart’s COVID-19 policy.

Alejandro and his mom Graciela agreed to speak to Gig Workers Collective about his step-father Alejo, an Instacart Shopper who lives in the Mission District of San Francisco. He is in 50’s and has been an active Shopper since January. He has managed to earn a perfect 5-star customer rating over his last 100 orders, a rare rating which Instacart workers strive to achieve. He loves working within his community and is proud of what he has been able to accomplish. He loves it so much, in fact, that it became his sole source of income. …

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On Thursday, Instacart published a new Medium post entitled “Continued Support for the Shopper Community”.

Once again, this was nothing more than an attempt at fixing their PR disaster while doing absolutely nothing to protect the Shopper Community. We have continuously outlined, based on the advice given by officials, what Shoppers need to stay safe during this outbreak, and Instacart is ignoring it. Most workers STILL haven’t been able to order, let alone receive, proper PPE. …

This afternoon, Instacart announced that they plan to provide shoppers with hand sanitizer, masks, and thermometers. At least four different groups of In-Store Shoppers have received notice this week that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job, so this is a step in the right direction, but still a far cry from adequate. Something that is not yet clear is how many sets of supplies they have secured, and when Shoppers will receive them.

Instacart did add hand sanitizer to their internal online store for Shoppers this week, but it immediately sold out. …

Late last night (Monday, March 30), an In-Store Shopper in the Cambridge, MA area shared with us an email they received from Instacart corporate —probably the last email anyone would want to see at this point in time:

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Instacart’s email sent to an In-Store Shopper, as provided to Gig Workers Collective

As Instacart spent Monday discrediting our workers’ strike, downplaying the requests we and thousands of other Shoppers and customers were making, they were also busy informing their workers that they may have been working alongside a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a store in Cambridge.

This is the exact worst-case scenario we wrote about when giving our reasons for a strike. In-Store and Full-Service Shoppers work in close quarters with each other and with other people in stores. The virus is confirmed to be present in at least one of these workplaces now. These Shoppers handle produce, groceries and supplies that are then delivered to Instacart customers. Often many hundreds of customers per day. Without adequate measures, Instacart Full-Service Shoppers and In-Store Shoppers can unknowingly become vectors for the disease and multiply the danger for everyone involved. …

We are up-to-date on Instacart’s statements published today and over the weekend, and the reality is that Instacart has still failed to provide what we are asking for — what would be necessary — to halt our emergency walk-off.

Instead of focusing its attention on addressing the ongoing health and safety crisis, Instacart has chosen to use its time discrediting the significance, reach, and impact of our walk off.

We want to make it very clear that we do not keep lists or head counts of workers that participate in actions, we never have and until we are properly classified we never will. We do this for our mutual safety — as misclassified employees, we are afforded no rights or protections to organize under the NLRA. We are a remote and atomized workforce, we have no shop floor, no strike counts, and no physical picket line. …

Gig Workers Collective

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