An Instacart Shopper with COVID-19 is now on a Ventilator — Instacart Refuses to Help

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. He even worked on his birthday this year, April 10.

On April 12, Alejo woke up with concerning symptoms and did not work. His symptoms failed to subside, but, instead, grew worse. Finally, on April 16, he managed to obtain a COVID-19 test. His worst fears were confirmed: He tested positive for the potentially deadly virus. On April 21, Alejo was admitted to the hospital — then the ICU not long after. He is currently on a ventilator. His future is uncertain. Shortly after receiving the results of the COVID-19 test, Alejo’s son submitted a claim on his behalf to Instacart. An unreasonable TWELVE days later, Instacart responded, denying his claim because it did not come from a Public Health Official. Instacart has yet to provide any assistance, despite Alejo working diligently as it asked until the very day he became aware of symptoms.

This is not worker protection. This is not even humane. This is a cold calculation by Instacart, enabling it to replace dying workers more cheaply than to protect existing ones. This is a moral failure in every possible sense. There is no situation in which Instacart would be considered to be doing “the right thing” by their workers.

We have repeated, over and over, that workers believed Instacart would not honor the ridiculous requirements for their COVID-19 worker protection program. This is proof. This company never once sincerely cared for its workers, despite its PR department’s claims to the contrary. And now Alejo is the first of likely many who will be paying for it.

According to Instacart, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be eligible for up to 14 days of pay. An amount that feels like a pittance once it sinks in that lives are at stake. Regardless, Instacart maintains that Alejo is not eligible for any sort of payment or support, despite working dutifully and honorably until the moment he couldn’t.

In the time since Alejo was diagnosed, his wife has also been diagnosed with COVID-19. She, too, is now unable to work, and the couple has no income. Alejo believes he unknowingly transmitted it to her.

Even in the best case, Instacart’s 14 days of promised pay is not a jackpot. In the face of a major health crisis affecting the heads of your family, the payout for Alejo — about $3,000 — would be crumbs.

But, Alejo works in an Instacart region that provides a hefty bonus for signing up your friends — $2,500, in fact. So the calculation is clear — it’s simply cheaper to replace Alejo than it is to provide any sort of help for him. This worker, who gave himself for his family, his community, and ultimately Instacart, is left on a ventilator which he will have to pay for himself.

Alejo did nothing wrong. Indeed, if you look at his Shopper rating, he did everything right. But he and his family now face incredible hardship because Instacart is unwilling to provide any assistance, despite their PR department’s claims to the contrary.

We send our best wishes to Alejo and his family, and our hope for their speedy recovery. We hope, also, that his experience is a singular one — that Instacart changes course and honors all workers who contract COVID-19 by providing them with the resources and care they are entitled to as human beings, all workers who have a doctor’s note requiring them to quarantine, and all workers who are too high-risk to work during the pandemic.

In solidarity,

Gig Workers Collective and Instacart Shoppers

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