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Instacart’s Gig Workers Are Planning a Massive, Nationwide Strike

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Instacart shoppers are planning a nationwide mass revolt over the grocery delivery app’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, workers say they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order, free safety gear (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and soap) to workers, and expands its paid sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who have been advised by their doctors not to work at this time. Workers say the strike will last until Instacart agrees to these terms.

The March 30 walkout will build on a wave of wildcat strikes sweeping across the country. In recent days, Amazon warehouse workers in Queens, New York, sanitation workers in Pittsburgh, and poultry plant workers at Perdue Farms in Georgia have all walked off the job, demanding greater protections from coronavirus, and leading to calls for a “general strike,” or mass strike action across the country. Meanwhile, the upcoming Instacart strike will mark the first time gig workers in the United States—who face the double bind of working on the front lines of virus and lacking basic labor protections like healthcare and paid sick days—have walked off the job in response to coronavirus.

“While Instacart’s corporate employees are working from home, Instacart’s [gig workers] are working on the frontlines in the capacity of first responders,” Vanessa Bain, a lead organizer of the upcoming Instacart walkout, and an Instacart gig worker in Menlo Park, California, told Motherboard. “Instacart’s corporate employees are provided with health insurance, life insurance, and paid time off and [are] also eligible for sick pay and paid family leave. By contrast its [gig workers], who are putting their lives on the line to maintain daily operations are afforded none of these protections. Without [us], Instacart will grind to a halt. We deserve and demand better.”

To date, Instacart—like its Silicon Valley peers at Uber, Lyft, Postmates, and DoorDash—has offered up to two weeks of paid sick leave to gig workers only if they test positive for Covid-19, at a time when tests are in short supply. That offer only lasts until April 8, before the worst of the pandemic is set to hit. For many gig workers who live paycheck to paycheck this means there’s no other option but to work while sick.

And for others with increased risk for contracting the virus, it means going without pay.

“This job lifted me out of poverty and I was able to help my daughter with tuition for college and pay my mortgage, but I just discovered I have a problem with my heart, and stopped working during this pandemic because I decided it’s not worth me ending up in an ICU,” an Instacart gig worker in Chicago with congestive heart failure who wished to remain anonymous because she feared retaliation told Motherboard. She is currently living off her savings and hopes to make it through several months without income from Instacart.

“Now they’re calling us household heroes and Instacart is fully operational across North America but they’re saying we need to test positive for covid-19 to get two weeks salary,” she continued. “It’s a hollow process. It’s all optics. They’re putting our lives at risk.”

Are you working on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus pandemic and have a story/tip to share? We want to hear from you. Please get in touch with Lauren at lauren.gurley@vice.com or on Signal 201-897-2109.

Last week, Instacart announced that it will hire an additional 300,000 gig workers in the next three months—more than doubling its current workforce—as demand for home delivered groceries increases with customers looking to reduce trips to the grocery store. Prior to the current hiring spree, Instacart workers have repeatedly expressed that they’ve seen their income decline as the company has flooded markets with new workers who add competition among workers for lucrative orders. Instacart plans to hire 54,000 new shoppers in California, and 27,000 in New York.

“The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history and our teams are working around the clock to reliably and safely serve all members of our community,” said Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta in a statement about the hirings.

“Instacart has been busy crafting a rather heroic public image as the saviors of families sheltered-in-place, and as the economic saviors of laid off workers—announcing Monday its plan to hire 300,000 new workers,” Bain, the Instacart organizer, said. “In truth, Instacart is providing no protection to its existing [gig workers], and profiting significantly off of this pandemic.”

Instacart did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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3 Firms Guide Chinese Gig-Worker Platform’s $33M US IPO

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Law360 (July 10, 2020, 4:25 PM EDT) — Chinese gig-worker platform Quhuo started trading Friday after raising $33 million in an upsized initial public offering steered by Wilson Sonsini, Maples and Calder and Commerce & Finance Law Offices.

Beijing-based Quhuo Ltd. said Friday it priced 3.3 million American depositary shares at $10 apiece, a larger offering than its earlier plan to sell 2.7 million American depositary shares. The ADSs also began trading on the Nasdaq Global Market on Friday, where they opened at $15.31 and are trading under the symbol QH. Each ADS represents one share of Class A common stock.

Quhuo is headquartered in Beijing and registered in…

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UK – Union to proceed with judicial review that could extend health and safety rights to gig workers

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13 July 2020

The UK’s High Court has granted permission to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain to proceed with a judicial review that could extend health and safety rights to hundreds of thousands of gig economy workers.

The union is arguing that the government failed in its obligation to transpose health and safety directives from EU law into UK law. Whereas UK health and safety law only protects employees, EU law extends these protections, to all those classified as workers.

If successful, the judicial review would force the government to extend health and safety protections to all ‘workers’, including hundreds of thousands in the gig economy, such as Uber drivers and parcel couriers.

This would include a right to personal protective equipment and a right to bring legal action against an employer if a worker suffers a detriment or is dismissed after refusing to work under unsafe conditions.

IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez said,“Gig economy workers have been among those with the highest death rates from Covid-19. This isn’t by accident, but the result of a failure by this and past governments to properly implement health and safety legislation.

“For far too long, the government has turned a blind-eye to the abuses of gig economy employers, allowing them to make up the rules as they go along, while ignoring the safety of their staff,” Lopez continued. “With this case we will start to reclaim some of the basic rights that are being routinely denied to these workers.”

Fiona Coombe, SIA director of legal and regulatory research provided some clarification. “There is a distinction here between workers who are classified as self-employed contractors working for one of the gig economy platforms and agency workers. Agency workers have had health and safety protection through many regulations including the Working Time Regulations and Conduct Regulations and in practice are often given the same level of protection as employees of the hirer. That does not seem to be the case for the workers who are the specific focus of this case.”

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 COVID-19 Pandemic Erases Years of Financial Gains in Months, Disproportionately Affecting People of Color, Women, Gig Workers and the Young

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NEWARK, N.J.–()–The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic largely wiped out three years of financial gains in the United States, with more than half of Americans reporting their financial health has been compromised. People of color, women, younger generations and small business owners were among those disproportionately affected, Prudential’s (NYSE:PRU) 2020 Financial Wellness Census™ finds.

“This crisis exposed deep fissures in our public health and economic systems, pervasive racial and social inequity, and how weak our collective immunity is to financial disruption,” said John Kalamarides, president of Prudential Group Insurance. “Tackling these systemic vulnerabilities will require bold thinking and public/private partnerships to help our society overcome financial fragility and prosper through an inclusive recovery.”

Fielded in May 2020, the study shows nearly one-in-five respondents said their household income was cut by half or more in the months following the pandemic’s outbreak, with 17% losing employer contributions to a retirement plan, 14% losing health insurance and 10% losing group life insurance benefits, eliminating critical safety nets.

The negative impact is disproportionately high for certain segments of the population. For example, while 48% of all of those surveyed said they were worried about their financial future, 56% of Black Americans and 56% of Latino Americans said they were worried about their financial futures. And while 17% of all Americans reported being unemployed, that figure was considerably higher for those with household income under $30,000 (34%) versus those with household income of over $100,000 (8%).

Where 17% of respondents said their household income was cut by half or more, that number rose to 31% for gig workers, 25% for LGBTQ Americans and 24% for those employed in the retail industry.

The results are a startling contrast to findings just months earlier, in December 2019, showing Americans were financially on the upswing. More than half (52%) ranked themselves financially healthy by objective measures, up from 46% in Prudential’s first Financial Wellness Census conducted in October 2017.

Additionally, the economic fallout from the pandemic shrunk the portion of respondents who qualified as financially confident to 36% from 40% in 2019, while swelling the number of those who are discouraged to 33% from 31% in 2019. Regardless of household income, the survey revealed nearly half of Americans (48%) are worried about their financial future, up from 38% just a few months earlier.

Asked what changes they would like to see as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, census respondents cited more affordable health care, more flexible work options and better government programs to support small businesses. Those with lower incomes were most focused on changes that strengthen their finances and social safety nets, citing affordable health care and universal health care coverage, better government support of small businesses and the unemployed, a higher minimum wage and more protections for workers.

The data also show that Americans most often look to the federal government for financial assistance in times of crisis (32%), followed by family and friends (28%), then state and local governments (27% and 17%, respectively).

Employers also play a critical role when it comes to financial health. The workplace benefits Americans most value include retirement savings opportunities, paid time off, and comprehensive health care and prescription drug coverage, according to the census.

Read the full report for more information.

About Prudential Financial

Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE:PRU), a financial wellness leader and premier active global investment manager with more than $1 trillion in assets under management as of March 31, 2020, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees help to make lives better by creating financial opportunity for more people. Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit news.prudential.com.

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