In late March, Instacart and Whole Foods employees both staged strikes demanding better safety measures and pay amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the New York Times' Noam Scheiber and Kate Conger:
On Monday, a contingent of workers who fulfill orders for the grocery delivery service Instacart stayed off the job, demanding greater pay and better access to paid leave and disinfectant.
As some workers put it, everyone's safety is at risk if they go without the proper equipment:
“We are not just walking off to protect ourselves, we are walking off to protect our customers,” said Vanessa Bain, 34, an Instacart worker in Silicon Valley. “Workers are touching every single thing that a customer receives in their order. If we get sick, invariably that means they are going to get sick too.”
According to the Gig Workers Collective, Instacart's measures fall short, which puts lives on the line. As Instacart shoppers and the Gig Workers Collective write on Medium:
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.
One Trader Joe's location in New York City has already closed its doors due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19, and it's only a matter of time before the same is true for more grocery stores around the country. Everyone must take care when going out for necessities like groceries, but as more consumers count on food delivery workers to do their grocery store shopping for them, it is absolutely necessary for their parent companies to take ever precaution to protect and serve them.
At the end of the day, grocery and food delivery services must do more than just protect customers; they must protect employees.
According to the Verge's Jay Peters, food delivery services like Instacart, DoorDash and PostMates have implemented new policies to help support employees during this trying time:
Instacart, DoorDash, and Postmates have announced new policies to help their gig workers with potential financial burdens they might incur if they have to miss work due to the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.
DoorDash will be providing up to two weeks assistance to employees diagnosed with COVID-19, and PostMates will be launching a fund to pay back deliveries workers the cost of medical care relating to COVID-19. As for Instacart:
Any of Instacart’s part-time employees or full-service shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, or put in mandatory quarantine will now be able to receive up to 14 days of pay, according to Instacart. That brings the company in line with Uber and Lyft, which will similarly be compensating drivers for up to two weeks of pay if they are affected by the novel coronavirus. However, it’s worth noting this policy will only be available for 30 days from March 9th, according to Instacart’s blog.
And if you have questions about what it's like to actually have COVID-19, check out our latest episode of "Tell Me Everything," where our editor-at-large discusses one New Yorkers' experience with the virus, and as always, stay up to date on the latest news from the CDC.