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A recent labor strike has come and gone and you were likely none the wiser. Even if you use the app Instacart, you may not have even known that on November 19 and 20, there was a worker strike.
Using a closed Facebook group, Instacart shoppers organized a strike of sorts. Basically, their idea was to sign on, get offered pickups, and just continually deny them. Like blocking the roadways, the strike was intended to cause a slight service disruption to the individuals just trying to utilize a convenient service.
Instacart is an app that allows users (customers) to simply purchase their groceries and other items through the app and have them delivered within a matter of hours. The app provides this service using Uber-like independent contractors who log into their app and receive orders to fulfill. And for every order, the contractor/shopper will make a commission.
Not too long ago, Instacart settled a massive worker class action. While the total settlement amounted to a few million, each worker was only going to see up to $1,000, at best. The settlement, as well as the countless other arbitration proceedings the company is facing from their independent shopper contractors, has not slowed the company's growth.
However, to support the growth, the company changed the way it charges customers. In addition to the inflated prices, a 10% service charge is added. This charge is meant to help offset the low volume of work for shoppers in emerging regions. Unfortunately for all the other shoppers, when the service charge was added, tipping was made needlessly complex, leading to fewer, and worse, tips. Now, as Ars Technica reports, some of those shoppers make as little as $1 per hour.
In this day and age, it is shocking to hear about any worker making such pitiful wages. What makes the Instacart matter so compelling is the fact that it is a rather well-funded company that is providing a great service. Users, from private individuals to large entities, like the service, and, as such, it has continued to grow in popularity since its debut.
Unfortunately for the workers, their attempt at striking didn't seem to make any impact whatsoever. For gig economy startups, seeing the strike fail might inspire confidence for the company, but it likely won't be good for ensuring a steady stream of independent contractors.