Joining a nationwide wave of employee-led direct action during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, gig workers at the Target-owned grocery delivery service Shipt plan to walk off the job Tuesday and not return until the company provides them with two weeks of paid sick leave, hazard pay and personal protective equipment.
"On Tuesday, April 7th, Shipt workers will walk off until our demands are met," the group of Shipt workers that organized the walkout wrote in a Medium post Monday. "We call on customers, in a showing of solidarity, to boycott Shipt on Friday, April 10th."
The group described their current pay as "insultingly low" particularly given the nature of the job, which requires workers — who are technically classified as independent contractors — to shop for groceries and deliver them to the homes of customers at a time when the federal government has urged people to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"We are exposing ourselves to great risk so others don't have to," the workers wrote. "During these uncertain times, Shipt must not put profits before people. It is unconscionable for Shipt to continue to ignore the concerns of its shoppers. Target is the 8th largest retailer in the country. They can afford to protect us and our customers during this pandemic."
The Hill reported last week that Shipt drastically cut pay for orders that are canceled by customers. After workers voiced outrage at the move and said they were receiving as little as $0.29 on orders that previously netted as much as $20, Shipt vowed to pay at least $5 per canceled order — a sum Shipt workers slammed as inadequate.
"We are undervalued even as we are the most key part of the business," said one Shipt worker who plans to participate in Tuesday's protest. "We deserve higher pay and hazard pay."
In their Medium post, Shipt workers wrote that they have been "sounding the alarm for weeks" and "imploring" the company to provide basic protections like face masks and gloves.
"Rather than respond to the calls for action, Shipt chose to ignore shoppers' pleas," the workers said. "Shoppers have no choice but to stage a walk off. It is simply too unsafe to work right now."
As Vice's Lauren Kaori Gurley reported, Tuesday's walkout will mark "the first time gig workers at the Birmingham, Alabama-based company — which boasts more than 100,000 gig workers nationwide and is hiring at least 10,000 more in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — have staged a collective protest against the company since its founding in 2014."
Willy Solis, a Dallas-based lead organizer of the planned walkout, told The Hill Monday that Shipt workers were inspired to take action by protests last week by Instacart, Amazon and Whole Foods employees. On Monday, employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, walked off the job for the second week in a row to protest unsanitary conditions at the facility.
Solis said Shipt workers have been calling for protective equipment "for several weeks now, through direct and indirect means, and our requests have been completely ignored."
"There's a sense of urgency in regards to protecting ourselves," said Solis.
Read the workers' full list of demands:
We will be holding a walk-off starting Tuesday, April 7th, until the following demands are met:
- Hazard Pay of $5 per order. The current pay is insultingly low to work during this pandemic. We are exposing ourselves to great risk so others don't have to.
- Expanding on their 14 day Covid-19 policy. Shipt is only offering 14 days of pay to Shoppers who tested positive to the virus. The policy needs to include Shoppers who are either too high risk to work or doctor's note advising them to stay home. Additionally, Shoppers should not have to go through hoops to get this pay.
- PPE for every shopper to protect us, customers, and our community made available immediately. Offering PPE to select shoppers in one size (small gloves/6 oz of hand sanitizer), absurdly small quantities (one), and select stores is absolutely not enough. Shipt is currently only offering PPE at Target stores, which excludes all other retail stores we serve. Many shoppers have been unable to work because they cannot afford the risks without proper PPE and hazard pay. Further, we need hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes to help curb the spread of this historic pandemic.
- Revert all shoppers pay back to the original transparent pay structure. Shipt dubbed "version 2" was implemented in an estimated 48 markets. Version 2 coupled with tweaks to canceled order pay have resulted in steep cuts lowering our earnings potential substantially.
- Tips must be transparent and immediately dispersed. Shipt must allow customers the option to tip upfront when placing their orders. Customers have reported difficulties tipping their shopper and, in some cases, some shoppers never received their tip. The checkout process must be redesigned to allow for easy tipping and Shipt must ensure all tips left by customers reach Shoppers immediately.
- Shipt must stop exploiting its new workers. Shipt is preying upon vulnerable populations of workers who have recently lost their jobs/were furloughed by extending offers of expedited hiring. They've suspended orientation, are no longer properly training new workers, and aren't offering them the support that they need. The platform cannot even support the current shopper base.