A group of Instacart workers on Monday called on customers to delete the grocery-delivery app, saying the soon-to-be-public company “will never do right by its shoppers.”
Gig Workers Collective, a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit that advocates for app-based workers, in an open letter urged Instacart customers to refrain from using the service until the company changes how it treats the shoppers who deliver their groceries. The group said it has fought for five years for fair treatment for Instacart shoppers, is dissatisfied with minimal response from new Chief Executive Fidji Simo and “firmly believe we have exhausted all less drastic options.”
The group has urged people to delete the app before, but its call this time and demand for specific actions comes as Instacart, the U.S. leader in grocery delivery that’s valued at $39 billion, is expected to go public by the end of the year. As of July, the 9-year-old company commanded 63% of grocery-delivery market share, according to Edison Trends, more than 2.5 times the market share of its nearest competitor, Amazon.com Inc.
which had 25%.
The company has faced lawsuits and accusations of mistreating the gig workers that power its business and is one of the giant companies fighting to classify its workers as independent contractors instead of employees. It spent more than $31 million on Proposition 22, the California ballot initiative that passed last year, which exempts it and other gig companies from a state law that would require them to classify their workers as employees.
“Over the last 5 years, Instacart has been relentlessly gutting shoppers’ wages, exploiting its improperly classified workforce, and outright stealing shoppers’ wages and tips on its path to its highly anticipated public offering,” Gig Workers Collective wrote.
The group is calling on the company to: pay shoppers per order, not per batch; re-introduce item commissions; examine its shopper-rating system; offer occupational death benefits; and raise the default tip to 10% for every order.
An Instacart spokeswoman said Monday that the company has made changes over the past several years to improve working conditions for its shoppers, which now number more than 500,000. “We take shopper feedback very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience,” she said.
Gig Workers Collective said it has seen shopper pay decline since the pandemic began last year, as Instacart brought on more hundreds of thousands more shoppers to meet a surge in delivery demand. According to the company, it pays shoppers a minimum of $7 to $10 per batch of orders, depending on the demand volume, where the shopper is based, items in and weight of orders, projected delivery times and more.
Tips, which the company encourages but does not require, are separate from the guaranteed minimums. The company, which has been accused of applying tips toward what it pays its shoppers, has set the default tip on the app to 5%.
Another demand by the workers group addresses what it calls an unfair ratings system that can deactivate shoppers for reasons beyond their control. The company said it bases shoppers’ average ratings on their last 100 deliveries, and that it is continuing to update its system.
As for occupational death benefits, the company said its provides all U.S. full-service shoppers coverage for some medical expenses, disability payments and accidental death benefits.