Exactly What We Said Would Happen: Instacart Is Quietly Informing Shoppers That They May Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

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:

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.

Given the unprecedented nature of the virus and its rate of spread, some might say it would only be a matter of time before Instacart and companies like it would have to face this scenario. But given their insistence on dragging their heels in regards to protections, sick leave, hazard pay and so on, it would not be hyperbolic to say that Instacart corporate, through its arrogance, may ultimately be responsible for exposing more people to COVID-19 than necessary. And given the difficulties in being tested in the US, it is impossible to know whether what is happening in Cambridge is happening elsewhere, too.

While these emails were going out, Instacart was reaffirming to the public that it is not interested in providing sick pay, healthcare, time off, or hazard pay for its Shoppers; instead, they are clearly comfortable playing Russian Roulette with not only workers’ lives, but potentially with customers’ lives as well. This is fantastically irresponsible and is the darkest moment we’ve seen from Instacart yet. It seems like only yesterday we were striking to get back our stolen tips and fairer pay — now this is literally about life and death.

Instacart has been trying very hard to suggest they know the risks better than the workers on the ground, and that they are better suited to determine what appropriate protections for workers are. The fact of the matter is, they obviously do not know what they are doing. You knew it, we knew it, and now, unfortunately, customers will know it —except some of them may be finding out the hard way.

This strike is now more important than ever, and we still intend to see it through. Our best wishes for a clean bill of health and successful quarantine go out to those affected in Cambridge. But in the meantime, we are also acting by reaching out to workers there and across the country to find out more about what, if anything, Instacart will be doing to change its stance regarding the COVID-19 crisis and whether or not they will finally provide meaningful benefits to both In-Store and Full-Service Shoppers — namely the ones thousands of workers have been demanding:

  1. Basic PPE (hand sanitizer, masks, disinfectant wipes, etc).
  2. Hazard pay — an extra $5 per order and defaulting the in-app tip amount to at least 10% of the order total.
  3. An expansion of pay for workers impacted by COVID-19 — anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a preexisting condition that’s a known risk factor or requiring a self-quarantine. Workers who must stay home due to conditions that put them at high risk are still not being given sick pay.

Benefits like these will ensure that those who suspect they may have the virus will be able to stay home, and give those who are working a far smaller chance of contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to others if they are asymptomatic and unknowingly carrying. These are not radical demands, they are the basics required to keep us and our customers as healthy as possible for as long as possible. It’s not any individual’s fault that they contracted COVID-19, nor is it the next worker’s fault that they may have been exposed. But when it comes to Instacart corporate’s decision-making, prevention measures and mitigations are possible, but they’ve simply decided to not provide them.

We ask — how many more Instacart Shoppers have to be exposed to COVID-19 before they take action and provide the benefits workers are asking for?

We would also like to ask regulators and legislators at this time to examine Instacart’s current practices for evidence of criminal negligence. We will continue to provide updates as we have them. Until then, stay safe, and continue striking.

In closing, we want to express our utmost support to workers striking at Amazon, Whole Foods, Everlane, General Electric, and elsewhere who are urging those corporations to do the right things during this crisis. We are with you all, and your strength inspires us and other workers around the country.

In solidarity,

Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store