Gig Economy

Instacart Workers Strike Over Low Pay

A handful of Instacart contract workers were gearing up to strike this past weekend to protest what personal shoppers contend are low wages.

According to a news report in Ars Technica, which cites an Instacart employee who requested to remain anonymous, the idea behind the strike is to empower shoppers to stand up for themselves and demand better wages.

“We’re going to sign up for shifts and then when it’s time, if I’m working from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on [Nov. 19], the first order, I’m going to decline it, not accept the batch,” said the Instacart shopper in the report. “Batch” refers to the pickup of multiple orders from one retailer. “They’ll kick us off and we’ll continue to do that until they kick us off [for the day].”

Instacart, which has raised more than $674 million in venture capital, enables customers to purchase food online. Shoppers are then sent to pick up the orders and deliver them to the customers. The company uses part-time and contract workers for its service, and according to the report, has faced lawsuits in the past few years over the wages it pays its contractors. Instacart has also paid several million dollars to settle some suits, noted the report.

Instacart told Ars Technica that it is aware of the strikes – which are expected to take place in Austin, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri – but that it doesn’t expect them to result in any service interruptions.

The strike comes as Instacart is in expansion mode, partnering with Wegmans, a family-run East Coast grocery chain with 92 stores and $8.4 billion in annual sales this past summer. This was the latest move in the San Francisco grocery delivery startup’s quest to push business beyond dense city centers and into more sprawling suburbs. Wegmans’ loyal customer base may be the perfect test group to determine whether Instacart’s delivery model can work in less dense areas.  If this partnership works out, it will signal that the Instacart concept can work in the suburbs. If not, it’s hard to imagine that a partnership with a more mainstream (but less beloved) store would have greater success.

Instacart will deliver Wegmans first to the Washington, D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia and Maryland. Boston and other markets are soon to follow, with dozens of Wegmans stores slated for Instacart coverage within the next few months.

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