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Instacart, Amazon workers plan to strike over coronavirus safety concerns

Workers for Instacart and Amazon plan to strike Monday and are demanding greater safety measures to protect employees from the coronavirus pandemic.

Instacart workers nationwide said they would refuse to take new orders during the walkout. Known as “shoppers,” they pick up and deliver groceries to customers.

Amazon warehouse workers on Staten Island in New York City were also preparing to stop working Monday afternoon in protest over concerns about protections from the coronavirus, according to CNBC.

In a statement to CNBC, Amazon said the company was “following all guidelines from local health officials and [is] taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

The planned strikes come as millions across the U.S. are sheltering at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

Grocery delivery services such as Instacart have seen a boom in popularity due to the crisis. Last week, Instacart announced it would hire another 300,000 workers across the U.S. to meet a surge in demand due to shutdowns over coronavirus.

But workers said they are putting their health at risk.

“We will not risk our safety, our health, or our lives for a company that fails to adequately protect us, fails to adequately pay us, and fails to provide us with accessible benefits should we become sick,” labor group Gig Workers Collective said Friday.

The group demanded Instacart provide protective equipment for workers at no cost, add a $5 hazard pay fee to all orders to compensate shoppers, and extend sick benefits for workers directly affected by the virus — with a later deadline to apply.

On Sunday, Instacart responded to the workers’ demands by announcing it would provide in-house hand sanitizer for workers and change its default tip setting. Tips will now default to a customer’s last tip for future orders instead of reverting to the normal 5%, the company said.

“Over the last month, our team has had an unwavering commitment to prioritize the health and safety of the entire Instacart community,” Instacart President Nilam Ganenthiran said in a statement.

Gig Workers Collective slammed the company’s response as a “sick joke,” saying the tip changes would “provide no meaningful benefit to shoppers.”

“We are heartened by the outpouring of support we’ve received from Instacart customers, politicians, activists, and everyday folks worried that they could be exposed to the virus due to Instacart’s craven profit-seeking,” the group said Sunday, adding: “The strike is still on. Stay safe, everyone.”

The Gig Workers Collective didn’t immediately respond to a request from Digital Trends for comment. We will update this story when we hear back.

The planned walkout garnered support from some on social media:

Workers at Amazon & Instacart are keeping our economy going & making it possible for so many of us to stay-at-home right now.

But they aren’t getting health & safety protections, adequate pay, or basic dignity from their mega-corporate employers.

Support them today.

— Brad Lander (@bradlander) March 30, 2020

A reminder that Instacart workers are supposed to be striking today for better work conditions, so please don’t order from there today.

Don’t cross the picket line! Take that long walk if you are able to do so!

— Camonghne Felix (@CAMONGHNE) March 30, 2020

In case there was any wonder why there is an #InstacartStrike going on…this is what shoppers deal with.

— Adam Chappelle (@adamchappelle) March 30, 2020

The strike even caught the attention Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sided with the workers in a tweet Saturday.

“A company of this size should not be forcing its workers to put themselves — and us all — at risk,” Sanders wrote.

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.

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