Instacart workers are going on strike.

Social distancing and fear of the coronavirus have sparked a huge increase in Americans ordering their groceries online for delivery through services such as Amazon Fresh and Instacart. To meet the demand, Instacart announced last week that it will hire 300,000 full-service shoppers to deliver groceries for its 350+ retail partners, "more than doubling the size of its shopper community."  

Man delivering groceries in a paper bag

Image source: Getty Images.

That may not be enough, however, to deal with the 150% increase in order volume the company says it has seen, year-over-year, in the last few weeks. Complicating matters further, the shoppers Instacart already employs (as independent contractors) are calling for a nationwide strike, and at least some of these workers may stop working today.

As NPR reports, Instacart workers are demanding paid sick time for illnesses other than just the coronavirus, paid time off when confined to quarantine, and free provisions of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the virus while making their deliveries. Instacart workers would also like to be paid an extra $5 per delivery for "hazard pay," and for the company to suggest a larger default tip rate in the Instacart app.  

Attempting to head off today's strike, Instacart announced Sunday that it will begin distributing "new health and safety supplies," including hand sanitizer, to its workers. The company will also change its app so that the default tip rate becomes the rate entered for a customer's most recent order, instead of the previous default rate, which was 5% of order value. The company reiterated that it has "announced a new COVID-19 bonus to increase pay," and "rolled out retroactive sick pay for in-store shoppers nationally and extended pay for all shoppers affected by COVID-19."  

Whether these concessions defuse the threat of a strike remains to be seen.