Coronavirus Pandemic: Instacart shoppers stage strike, company says no effect on service

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some workers for the San Francisco-based grocery shopping app Instacart launched a strike nationwide on Monday.

They are refusing to deliver for the app and they're asking customers to stop ordering from it.

Organizers of the strike say that in this novel coronavirus reality, their jobs have become too dangerous and the company needs to step up and support them.

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The company roughly has 200,000 shoppers working for them and are calling for more to join as demand grows as a result of social distancing policies. But, because the company hires independent contractors who are not unionized, organizing the shoppers is not easy.

One of the lead organizers, Matt Telles, a shopper from Chicago, estimates about 10,000 workers refused work on Monday.

"I make about an average of $200/week working full time and my new job is to stay alive using my mask that I shop in and getting my hands on any hand sanitizer I can find," said Telles.

Telles has been shopping for Instacart for five years. He launched the strike along with three other shoppers, including a Bay Area based woman. They've been taking turns taking to media to keep stress levels in check.

Telles said being deemed essential service seemed like the right opportunity to sound alarm bells about their working conditions.

To the CEO of the shopping app, Apoorva Mehta, he has this to say: "We love shopping, we love our communities and it's time to actually own up and be a leader and take care of your company by taking care of your frontline workers for once," he said.

ABC7 requested an interview with Instacart's leadership,. They sent us this statement: "Over the past month, we've launched a comprehensive set of changes to support the health and safety of our shoppers, including providing: safety supplies, increased wages, extended sick leave."

The company added that they even saw a 40% jump in shoppers signing on Monday with the launch of the strike and more groceries delivered in the last 72 hours than ever before.

Telles believes those numbers hide a darker reality - that people desperate for jobs are working despite the lack of support and protection.

"If all Instacart did was pay the 200,000 shoppers they have now, they won't have to hire 300,000 more, which is creating half a million potentially asymptotic vectors who may not be able to do safe deliveries," he said.

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