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.
On April 1st, Senator Elizabeth Warren penned a letter to the CEOs of Uber, GrubHub, and Instacart citing an article Gig Workers’ Collective wrote, to implore proper worker classification in the gig economy.
On May 28th, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Brian Schatz, Sherrod Brown, and Chris Van Hollen co-authored a letter to Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta sharing a copy of a letter they had submitted to the FTC regarding the practice of tip-baiting.
On June 2nd, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine secured a commitment from Instacart congruent with Gig Workers’ Collective demands to ensure expanded eligibility for paid sick leave, free telemedicine for workers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, temporary assistance for childcare for impacted workers, and a $50,000 donation to D.C. area food banks.
By August 27th, AG Racine filed a complaint against Instacart over its deceptive service fee, an issue that members of Gig Workers’ Collective have been organizing and agitating around for over four years, and was once again boosted through a three-day walk-off last November. The complaint, consistent with our messaging over the past several years, alleges that Instacart has engaged in deceptive business practices to swindle both workers and consumers out of tips.
While our primary focus has always been Instacart Shoppers, Gig Workers’ Collective launched a Shipt campaign this year which has been the first successful campaign to organize Shipt Shoppers. In January, Shipt quietly launched a new pay algorithmically-generated pay structure in just two markets, and by the time the pay launched nationwide, we were able to mobilize workers to two direct actions — one outside of Shipt’s Birmingham headquarters, and one outside of Target’s (Shipt’s parent company) Minneapolis headquarters. We were able to expose systematic tip misappropriation, and force Shipt to apologize and return tips to workers.
Shipt’s algorithmically generated pay was launched nationally in the midst of a global pandemic. Shipt continuously maintained that their new pay formula was not a pay cut. We teamed up with Coworker.org and MIT to create a pay calculator and were able to crowdsource data that demonstrated the new pay system was in fact a pay cut for 40% to 60% of its shoppers.
In October, we organized the first-ever in-person protests for Shipt Shoppers. Workers protested in front of Shipt’s headquarters in Birmingham and Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis. Workers shared their stories about how pay cuts have impacted them, and read letters from their fellow workers across the country that weren’t able to physically attend. Connor Sheets, a journalist we spoke with from AL.com covering the protests noted he had never seen such a large worker protest in Birmingham. In Minneapolis, dozens of workers protested for hours through freezing temperatures and snow, also sharing experiences with pay cuts and stood in solidarity with their fellow workers.
We teamed up with Human Rights Watch to help connect them with Instacart and Shipt Shoppers across the country so they could research the precarity of gig work and its impact on workers. Founding member of Gig Workers’ Collective, Vanessa Bain was featured as a speaker at Human Rights Watch Election convening. Human Rights Watch also produced a short film about the impact of Proposition 22 for gig workers in California.
For the past several months, we have also been focused on defeating the Proposition 22 campaign in California. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates drafted and financed the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in our country’s history. While ultimately Proposition 22 passed, we are still committed to ensuring that all gig workers are properly classified, compensated, and protected. We are obviously very disappointed that corporate propaganda won when Proposition 22 passed, but more devoted and motivated than ever to continue this fight. CEOs have already signaled their intentions of taking Proposition 22 national, and we are currently strategizing with allies to push back against Proposition 22 both at the state and national levels.
We have been in communication with several Attorney Generals offices across the country, quietly connecting them with local gig workers to build cases for injunctive relief for gig workers in their state.
After more than 4 years of connecting with workers predominantly through social media, we have spent the past few months growing an internal database of workers utilizing Solidarity Tech, built and gifted to us by our comrade Ivan Pardo. Members from our team participated in reflective engagement training.
In November, news leaked of Instacart’s impending IPO which is slated for early 2021. We have been organizing in response ever since. We will be unveiling the next steps in protest of Instacart’s IPO shortly, including a Worker’s Prospectus, to provide our assessment of risks to potential investors.
Our focus is and will always be building undeniable worker power, fighting for fair pay, and labor protections, and we believe our work is more important now than ever.
While we have spent the better part of this year finding our footing as a new organization, we are now a fully established nonprofit. We are now in a position to seek out and seamlessly receive additional funding to fully meet our budgetary needs. Please consider supporting our work at https://www.gigworkerscollective.org/donate