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Instacart Workers to Get Health Kits During Virus Pandemic (1)

April 2, 2020, 9:36 PM; Updated: April 2, 2020, 10:11 PM

Instacart announced it would give its full-service shoppers free health and safety kits, which include face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers, as a precaution during the coronavirus outbreak.

The food delivery platform has seen a surge in business as more people avoid stores because of the rapid spread of the new coronavirus. The company considers full-service shoppers who pick and up also deliver groceries independent contractors. In-store shoppers, who are considered part-time employees and don’t make deliveries, will receive masks from the retail locations where the platform operates, the company said in a statement.

Instacart has 250,000 active full-service shoppers and announced plans to increase that number to 300,000. The company declined to answer how much it would cost the company to provide the kits at no cost to the workers.

The announcement comes as workers for the company organized by Gig Workers Collective pushed for better pay and safety gear during the outbreak. They urged workers to strike, and not to accept orders until demands were met. The company said it worked with third-party manufacturers to source and develop the safety kits, and it has had this plan in the works for weeks. The kits will be available to shoppers at the beginning of next week.

Instacart previously said the strike had no effect on business after its first day on Monday, and orders have soared from just a week ago as coronavirus fears led more people to use the service.

“We’re singularly focused on the health and safety of our shopper community. Our teams have been working around the clock over the last few weeks to proactively secure personal protective equipment like hand sanitizer and face masks, without taking away valuable resources from healthcare workers given inventory delays and global supply scarcity,” Instacart President Nilam Ganenthiran said in a statement.

The Instacart strike is one of several worker protests sparked by the pandemic. Amazon.com Inc. employees went on strike at a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse, and organizers called for workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods to organize a mass “sickout” on Tuesday. As the pandemic has tightened its grip on daily life in the United States, workers across the country have pointed to their service of providing food, medicine, and other essentials in an effort to leverage better working conditions.

The gig organizers, who have been communicating via Medium posts, said the news of the safety measures come after four different groups of in-store shoppers received notice that they were exposed to the virus on the job.

“This is a step in the right direction, but still a far cry from adequate,” the group said. The workers also said the kits fall short because workers still don’t have any hazard pay, accessible sick leave, or quarantine pay for those without a doctor’s note. They noted that the default tip amount for deliveries remains at 10%.

Instacart confirmed in a statement responding to the organizers’ claims that a retail partner informed the company that an employee at a grocery store tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. “Out of an abundance of caution” the company communicated with the in-store shoppers who worked at the same location. The retail partner cleaned and disinfected as the Centers for Disease Control recommended, Instacart said.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Erin Mulvaney in Washington at emulvaney@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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