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Instacart, Amazon Workers Stage 1-Day Strike To Demand Hazard Pay, Protections Against COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/KPIX/AP) — Some Instacart and Amazon warehouse workers walked off the job Monday demanding greater safeguards against the coronavirus, even as both companies are speed-hiring hundreds of thousands of new workers to handle a surge in delivery orders.

The nonprofit Gig Workers Collective called for the one-day strike to demand better treatment. They want workers to be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, as well as an extra $5 per order in hazard pay.

The collective advocates "for all gig economy workers, from Instacart Shoppers to Lyft Drivers," according to its website.

Many workers in high demand are part-time or contracted employees, lacking in benefits such as paid sick time off or health care. In addition to demands for more protection against coronavirus, workers are citing longstanding grievances over practices that keep wages low and part-time workers from getting more hours.

San Francisco-based Instacart responded Sunday, saying it would distribute health and safety supplies to its full-service workers. They will also launch a new tip setting to help shoppers earn higher, consistent tips.

The company also said new COVID-19 measures include no-contact deliveries and a month-long extension of a policy giving 14 days of paid leave to workers diagnosed with coronavirus or those who've been ordered to self-isolate.

Strikers said it was too little too late.

"They need to give us hazard pay right now and it should be guaranteed," said Shanna Foster, a single mother who stopped working her Instacart gig two weeks ago out of fear of contracting the virus. "It wasn't worth the risk."

"We've been asking for sanitizer for weeks. They didn't address a lot of the other demands that we had, such as the hazard pay," said Instacart shopper Sarah Polito, a member of the Gig Workers Collective.

The group called Instacart's response "a sick joke" in a post on Medium. The group said the average pay per order is well under $10 and workers should not be risking their lives for pocket change.

Instacart said it is nearing its goal of hiring 300,000 more workers — more than doubling its workforce — to fulfill orders it says have surged by 150% over last year's levels in the past weeks.

It said the strike had no impact on its operations Monday, with 40% more shoppers using its platform compared to the same day last week.

Meantime, in New York, some 100 Amazon workers walked out of an Amazon warehouse Monday demanding the facility be shut and cleaned during a paid time off after a co-worker tested positive for the virus.

Amazon said it has taken aggressive steps to safeguard its employees from the virus, including enhanced cleaning and sanitation and social distancing enforcement. At the Staten Island facility, which employs 4,500 people, Amazon implemented daily temperature screenings.

Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, also is offering a temporary $2 raise in hourly wages and two weeks of paid time off for anyone who tests positive for coronavirus or who is quarantined.

But Whole Workers, the group calling for a strike Wednesday, said they want hazard pay, immediate shut down of stores if a worker tests positive and health care benefits for part-time and seasonal workers.

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