Should the recent Instacart strike concern retailers?
From Nov. 3 to 5, a number of Instacart’s drivers held a strike to demand better pay.
In a scathing open letter posted Nov. 1 on medium.com directed to Instacart’s founder and CEO, Apoorva Mehta, the striking “shoppers” — Instacart’s term for the independent contractors who fill and deliver grocery orders — called for Instacart to raise the default tip back to 10 percent versus the five percent they now receive after a recent policy change.
“You have demonstrated a pattern of behavior as CEO of eviscerating our pay and pirating our tips,” the striking shoppers wrote. “It would cost you, Apoorva, absolutely nothing to restore our previous tip defaults to at least 10 percent.”
Being on-demand workers, the strikers were encouraged to either refrain from signing up for any hours, refuse to accept any on-demand batches or to sign up for batches and let them time out.
A total of 212 shoppers signed the letter. It is unknown whether more shoppers beyond those may have participated in the strike but chose not to sign the letter. With Instacart claiming to have more than 130,000 shoppers in North America, the impact on Instacart’s operations appears minimal.
The bigger impact may be continued bad press as this marks the fourth consecutive year that Instacart’s shoppers have gone on strike. Non-striking workers may also suffer a loss of morale as distrust continues to grow over Instacart’s continually changing pay structure.
Massive media coverage arrived earlier this year as both Instacart and Doordash drew condemnation from customers and delivery workers for counting tips toward guaranteed minimum payments per assignment. Both Instacart and Doordash rescinded the tip-sharing policy in response to the social media uproar. Drivers for Uber likewise orchestrated a strike over fair pay and job security in May, just prior to that company’s IPO.
Rising concerns over gig worker rights led to the passage earlier this year of a law in California that could force gig economy companies to make their contractors into employees, subject to minimum wage laws and other protections. But the strikes and social media outcry shows on-demand workers have the potential to mobilize.
- Dear Apoorva Mehta (Founder and CEO of Instacart) – Medium
- Dear Instacart Customers – Medium
- Instacart delivery drivers are striking this week. Here’s why – Fast Company
- Instacart shoppers take CEO to task in scathing open letter – Mashable
- Instacart shoppers are organizing a nationwide protest – TechCrunch
- Instacart Workers Protest Wage Policies Following Benefits Rollout – Observer
- Uber and Lyft drivers are striking ahead of Uber’s IPO – TechCrunch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers be concerned about the strikes, bad press and social media gossip over gig employees’ working conditions? How do you see the battle over the pay structure for on-demand workers playing out, and will the outcome be favorable for retailers?