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Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

Dark Side of Gig Economy: Some Instacart Workers Go On Strike Over Pay That Can Be as Low as $1 Per Hour (fastcompany.com) 436

From a report: Instacart shoppers and drivers -- the people who gather your groceries and deliver them to you after you order via the Instacart app -- are on strike. While independent contractors can't technically strike, via a Facebook group some of the company's thousands of employees have organized a "no delivery day" in the hopes of getting higher wages, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The strike is only taking place in a few of the 154 cities nationwide that Instacart operates in. The action may be small, but the grievances are big. While Instacart, the 5-year-old San Francisco startup, is valued at $3.4 billion, it allegedly pays its workers as little as $1 per order. Ars Technica has a great breakdown of all the issues surrounding how Instacart employees get paid and it's complex, with three different income streams coming together Voltron-like to form a wage. The result, though, is that some shoppers are being paid less than the federal minimum wage, like a Jackson, Miss., worker who put in a 19-hour week in Jackson, Mississippi, that paid out $37.75 (roughly $2/hour). That's far below the $14/hour wage that Ars Technica says Instacart is targeting.
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Dark Side of Gig Economy: Some Instacart Workers Go On Strike Over Pay That Can Be as Low as $1 Per Hour

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  • This is not a bug but a key feature of gig economy. Also, multi-billion valuation for a grocery delivery service? Why?
    • Re:Gig economy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @02:30PM (#55589173) Homepage

      This is not a bug but a key feature of gig economy.

      It is. The "feature" is that by calling workers "independent contractors", Instacart can violate all of the laws set up to make sure that employers don't take advantage of workers. Morality, ethics, and common decency have no place in business-- all that matters is paying workers as little as possible in order for the company to make as much profit as possible.

      • >The "feature" is that by calling workers "independent contractors", Instacart can violate all of the laws set up to make sure that employers don't take advantage of workers.

        This is an old trick that's so obvious it's not even really a trick. I've been on the wrong end of it myself... and I could have filed an anonymous complaint with the tax authorities over it, but that likely would have tanked the company and I'd have made even less. And honestly, I was making decent money anyway.

        The innovation here

    • 'Burn to book ratio'. Same as in 2000, duh.

      They're selling bagged dry pet food on the internet again.

    • This is not a bug but a key feature of gig economy. Also, multi-billion valuation for a grocery delivery service? Why?

      The service industry as a whole is becoming rife with assholes behind desks directing around suckers, excuse me workers and paying wages that are not high enough to live on. The janitorial industry is becoming concentrated in a few firms that sub contract to the lowest bidder to avoid hiring anyone. Essentially shell companies with assholes in chairs. Most of these service industry corps are overvalued and traded back and forth between more assholes in chairs. The over valuation of assholes in chairs will b

  • So, are e-unions the future? I hope so. The plutocrats have gotten the upper hand for too long, creating growing inequality. It's time us 95% get some bargaining power back (if GOP doesn't outlaw or de-fang unions & e-unions).

    • So, are e-unions the future? I hope so. The plutocrats have gotten the upper hand for too long, creating growing inequality. It's time us 95% get some bargaining power back (if GOP doesn't outlaw or de-fang unions & e-unions).

      God I hope NOT!!

      I"ve been contracting for nearly 20 years now, and I am quite happy with it.

      I learned to incorporate myself (S-Corp), and figured out what I need to bill in order to make a living at what I do, taking into consideration my health insurance, retirement, vacation/s

      • > I"ve been contracting for nearly 20 years now, and I am quite happy with it.

        I doubt you fall into the same category as someone who depends on gig economy jobs for survival. There is a huge difference between someone making $150+ an hour bouncing place to place writing software, and someone who can't find any other work.

        This is the disconnect I find with most IT contractors who assume these people are in a similar situation. I need the stability of a regular paycheck because I have a family, otherwise I

    • I think I'm sensing a good idea for an app. :-)
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @02:30PM (#55589175)

    The only way it's economically viable for most people to get someone else to go shopping at a retail store for them is to pay that person much, much less than it otherwise would cost conventionally to do that.

    The gig economy seems entirely oriented around pay schemes that are so complicated that most of the people signing up to do the work can't figure out up front they won't make any money doing the work.

    • If you pick up someones groceries while you also shop for your own and deliver on your way home, its a chance to make some money for very little 'added' time invested.
    • And I'm sure Instacart would NEVER exaggerate average income on their driver recruitment materials. \sarc
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @02:47PM (#55589377)

    basic insurance will not cover them like pizza drivers no you need the higher cost Commercial Insurance.

  • If you think that's bad, you should see the hourly rate made by people selling stuff on Etsy.

    factoring in cost of materials, I'm pretty sure some people there are making a negative per-hour income.

  • It would be interesting to see the U.S. economy completely crash just to see who really is essential and who is superfluous. There's an excess of smugness these days. I can see an every man for himself situation develop very quickly.
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @03:40PM (#55589907)
    then i wont use their service until they get a decent living wage, either that or if i have no choice to use them then i will give them a nice fat tip, maybe a 20 dollar tip if they bring me my 100 dollars worth of groceries in good condition, i cant condone employees making less than a living wage, i want them to be paid fairly
  • by tquasar ( 1405457 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:00PM (#55590095)
    It's the economy, stupid. What has been called a recession is a depression. Former full time employees are scheduled for 20 hours per week to avoid receiving benefits and overtime pay. Minimum wage needs to be $30 per hour so workers can afford food, a car, and a place to live.
  • Exploitation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duke_cheetah2003 ( 862933 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:24PM (#55590281) Homepage

    Basically, using the guise of 'independent contractor', companies are skirting our (American) wage regulations and shafting workers whenever and whereever they can. And people wonder where that income disparity is coming from.

    This here is a nice shiny example.

  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Monday November 20, 2017 @04:49PM (#55590497)

    From the Ars article:

    shoppers make a per-item fee (typically $0.40)— however, this is not per unit of that item.

    Ars spoke with six Instacart shoppers who said that they have routinely been made to pick up several heavy items, such as cases of bottled water, soda, or ice. Those items, of course, not only have to be loaded into a shopping cart, and then into a car, but they must be also hand-carried to someone’s door—sometimes up flights of stairs. Shoppers are still paid a $0.40 per-item fee even if someone orders one, five, or 10 cases of bottled water.

    This definition of an "item" creates a windfall for people/businesses ordering lots of things--often heavy, bulky ones. Instacart's pricing scheme makes them a good deal more competitive than typical delivery services, so the customers do the rational thing.

    I have to wonder how much this entire issue would smooth out just by changing this into a true per-item fee.

    • This sounds like the true fix to me. Perhaps have a weight modifier. Airlines charge more for overweight baggage, and water is probably about the cheapest heavy item sold.

      You can still have a discount for buying multiple cases, because it should still be easier to grab 5 cases of water than 1 case of water and four other unique items.

      That said, I just had the thought that maybe these people should run around with a dolly or something to make it easier. Automation for the win.

      Hell, something like a powere

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