Opinion: Instacart and other companies should give gig workers the health and safety protections they need

Workers are asking for hazard pay, hand sanitizer, paid sick leave

By Gordon Mar and Matt Haney

As we enter our third week of the Stay at Home order, more and more people are relying on apps like Instacart, DoorDash and UberEats for delivery of food and other essential goods.

Yet as the coronavirus crisis deepens and our reliance on these services grows, gig workers at these companies are more vulnerable than ever, without access to the basic rights and protections that we all need during this time to protect ourselves and the health of others.

While the rest of us are told to stay home, workers at Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash are facing an impossible choice between staying safe and healthy and putting food on the table. These app based companies laud themselves for providing essential services during this crisis, when in reality it’s their workers who are risking their lives to serve our communities, without adequate support or protection from the companies.

Instacart workers across the country went on strike Monday for hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and hazard pay. Like healthcare workers, gig workers like Instacart shoppers are on the frontlines of the pandemic, bringing essential services to our communities, while braving crowded stores and close interactions without protection.

For several weeks prior to this strike, Instacart shoppers and the Gig Workers Collective have urged Instacart to take proper safety precautions. Pleas from workers have been ignored. The company paid sick leave that gig companies like Instacart, Uber and Lyft now offer, is only provided once a worker has tested positive for COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine. This means they are unable to access any paid sick leaves as symptoms develop, but before they have access to a test.

And because these gig companies are not complying with San Francisco’s healthcare security ordinance, their workers often have no access to doctors. We’ve heard from multiple drivers who, despite being asked by a healthcare authority to self-quarantine, have yet to have the paid leave honored by the companies.

This crisis has made it clear that basic protective equipment, paid sick leave, and healthcare are necessary for workers to do their job and keep all of us healthy. That’s why, last week, we introduced a resolution to enforce paid sick leave and healthcare laws for all gig drivers working in San Francisco. Essential gig workers deserve support from their employers and must have the protections of employee status to maintain their own health and protect the health of our most vulnerable residents. In these times when employers aren’t stepping up, it’s our job as elected leaders to do so.

Late last year, state Assembly Bill 5 passed into law, which restores basic labor protections to an estimated one million Californians who were due minimum wage, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation, and had been misclassified by their employers as independent contractors. .

Assembly Bill 5 passed into law, but is still not being enforced adequately. This law must be enforced at every level, by our local and state labor agencies and by our City Attorney and our state Attorney General.

Multi-billion dollar corporations like Uber, Lyft, Doordash and Instacart, many of which are based in San Francisco, cannot defy our laws. Moreover, they can’t prioritize profits over the health and well-being of their drivers and the public.

Rather than spend over $100 million on a ballot measure to overturn AB 5 and pre-empt our ability as lawmakers to make stronger local labor standards, we call on these corporations to obey our laws and pay their unemployment insurance taxes, drop their expensive ballot initiative and invest those millions of dollars in relief and support for their workers.

Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Doordash should meet the demands of their workers who are simply asking for support and protection while they risk their health and in some cases, their lives. The health and safety precautions will not only protect the workers, they will protect the customers as well.

We stand with striking Instacart workers and other gig workers fighting for safety and dignity. As people across our state shelter in place, these everyday heroes continue driving people to appointments, delivering food to vulnerable populations and keeping our society functioning. Workers are essential, and so are their rights.

Supervisor Gordon Mar represents District 4, and Supervisor Matt Haney represents District 6.

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