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article imageGrocery and delivery workers demand more pay and protection

By Karen Graham     Mar 31, 2020 in Business
Grocery and delivery workers are doing some of the most potentially dangerous jobs in America during the coronavirus outbreak and they are demanding better pay and protection.
Employees at Instacart and Amazon went on strike Monday, while Amazon-owned Whole Foods employees are planning a walkout Tuesday. Workers at all three companies, which do not have unions, are calling for better pay, more protective gear, and extended paid sick time.
At Instacart, a grocery delivery service, workers are calling for hazard pay of $5 per order, along with equipment like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The Amazon workers in Staten Island called for the facility to be shut and cleaned after a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19.
If anything good could possibly come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it is finding out that the state of online grocery deliveries is apparently a lot more fragile than anyone had anticipated. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, online grocery deliveries have been a relatively tough sell.
While online grocery delivery is a convenience for many - it is a necessity for the elderly and disabled. This writer, being disabled, has used Kroger delivery for groceries since it became available.
And like many others who depend on grocery delivery service, I found out just how broken the system has become two weeks ago after I made my order up only to discover that all of the delivery options were suddenly unavailable. Added to my woes, toilet paper or analgesics were not being delivered.
Mark Gerolimatos, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he's been unable to order groceries from Amazon Fresh for three to four days. "I found that using Fresh has become 'reFresh constantly,' not unlike trying to get tickets to some stupid concert," he said.
Luckily, like many disabled, this writer does have a home health aide who comes by twice a week to help out. But sending a healthcare worker to the grocery store is not such a good idea, due to the size of the lines and the risk involved.
As for elderly parents living far away, maybe in rural areas, the situation is even worse to contemplate. Corey B. from Virginia was trying to use Instacart to deliver to his grandmother who's based in rural Massachusetts, but couldn't.
"Instacart allowed me to select a delivery slot - but then told me they couldn't make the delivery and I should reschedule (though they have no slots available at all)," he said. "My grandma is 96 and lives alone 500 miles away and was counting on this food to get by."
Fixing the system
Yes, it does take a crisis to find out where a system is broken. And the coronavirus epidemic has made delivery businesses much more aware of employees' needs and safety. Amazon’s Whole Foods Market and Instacart have implemented new measures to help workers during the crisis.
Whole Foods is giving workers a $2 raise through the end of April, and Whole Foods and Instacart workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 get extended sick pay.
Instacart said Sunday that it would raise the suggested tipping amount to the percentage that a customer last tipped. And the company said it was working with a manufacturer to make hand sanitizer to distribute to shoppers.
“Our team has had an unwavering commitment to prioritize the health and safety of the entire Instacart community,” Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart, said in a statement. “We’ve been evaluating the Covid-19 crisis minute by minute to provide real-time support for Instacart shoppers and customers.”
More about delivery drivers, Instacart, Amazon, grocery delivery drivers, Covid19
 
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