- Instacart told Food Dive that a strike carried out by shoppers from Sunday into Monday of this week, in two of the 154 markets it serves, had no impact on operations.
- The action, which doesn’t technically qualify as a strike because Instacart’s shoppers are not full-time employees, was in protest of wages as low as $1 an hour and what shoppers claim is a convoluted tipping functionality. Shoppers planned to log in for work but not accept any deliveries during the strike period.
- Earlier this year, Instacart paid $4.6 million to former workers who brought a class action lawsuit against the company for improper handling of tips, neglecting to pay business expenses and 16 other charges. The company is still facing 50 arbitration proceedings, according to documents cited by Ars Technica.
According to tech news site Ars Technica, the two markets impacted by what participating shoppers called “no delivery day” were Austin, Texas and St. Louis. Many of the members were part of a Facebook group of more than 5,300 where workers aired grievances about the company.
As an anonymous shopper told the tech news site, workers planned to clock in for their shifts as usual, then decline to fulfill any orders.
"We’re going to sign up for shifts and then when it’s time, if I’m working from 10am to 1pm on [November 19], the first order, I’m going to decline it, not accept the batch,” he told the site last week. “They’ll kick us off and we’ll continue to do that until they kick us off [for the day]."
The scope of “no delivery day” was very limited, but with several outlets picking up the news ahead of the date, including Fast Company, Slate and the San Francisco Chronicle, it seemed possible that the movement could spread. However, when contacted by Food Dive, Instacart said it experienced no disruption in service or operations Sunday and Monday, when the action was set to take place. The company also sent along the following statement:
“Five years ago, there were few options for working in grocery. Today, hundreds of thousands of Shoppers are in the Instacart community around the country, picking and delivering groceries for grateful customers and helping local retail stores compete in a changing economy. Instacart empowers Shoppers by giving them a choice in how they work with Instacart — either as a part-time employee or independent contractor — and we're working side by side with thousands of Shoppers to create real opportunities.”
Instacart says it aims for workers to make around $14 per hour. But some shoppers, especially those who participated in “no delivery day,” claim the company is paying below minimum wage in certain markets.
As Ars Technica points out, Instacart worker make money three ways — through order commissions, per-item payments and customer tips. This seems like it could add up to a lot, but according to a worker survey, commissions — which are calculated by the company and factor in demand as well as shopper availability — vary from $14 in New York City to $3.25 in places like Rockford, Illinois.
As for the per-item fee — workers interviewed by the tech news site say the amount, typically around $0.40 per item, doesn’t factor in size and weight or number of units, meaning they make the same amount delivering several cases of water as they would for a bag of potato chips. Instacart’s tipping feature, meanwhile, has been criticized by shoppers as overly convoluted. The company removed online tipping last year, then reinstituted it after workers demanded its return. However, the tool isn’t obvious to customers, shoppers point out, and is often thought to be included in the service fee that’s charged.
Instacart is a $3.4 billion company that has had a banner year in terms of growth. But the company has a less-than-stellar history of worker relations. While it didn’t see any impact from its worker strike, it may still have worker grievances to address if it hopes to keep its pool of employees happy, and prevent more negative press from reaching customers.