Grocery delivery service Instacart said Thursday that it will provide face masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer to its full-service shoppers in the wake of worker demands that they get better protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instacart shoppers can order the free health and safety kits starting next week through a special portal created for them, the company said. Instacart will also pass out face masks to its employees at stores where it has on-site operations.
“Our teams are working quickly to introduce new services and features to ensure our shopper community is supported as this situation unfolds,” Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart said in a statement.
Ganenthiran said the company had “been working around the clock over the last few weeks to proactively secure personal protective equipment.”
But the lack of protections and hazard pay prompted some Instacart employees to stay off the job Monday. It was just one of several protests being staged or planned this week by delivery, warehouse and grocery workers who have become critical to getting supplies to millions of Americans hunkered down at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
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Instacart says that it will offer sick pay and COVID-19 bonuses to in-store shoppers, extend pay to part-time workers and shoppers affected by the virus, and create special time periods before and after stores open so its employees can pick up groceries in less crowded conditions.
Workers, labor advocates and lawmakers are increasingly calling attention to the health hazards faced by those tasked with meeting the skyrocketing demand for deliveries and supplies as tens of millions of Americans are told to stay inside.
Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York, staged a walkout Monday, the same day Instacart planned a similar work action. And employees at Whole Foods, also owned by Amazon, said they would also protest this week.
Amazon has announced additional safeguards, saying Thursday it will check all employees for fever, and offer masks to protect them at work.
Walmart and Sam’s Club will start taking the temperature of each of its employees to help slow the spread of the coronavirus as well as provide gloves and masks to those who ask. And Target said Thursday that it will give out protective gear to workers in its nearly 1,900 stores.
As of Thursday, more than 5,000 Americans had died of the coronavirus, and the number of cases surpassed 1 million worldwide.
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