Despite what companies have said about providing personal protective equipment to gig workers, some workers say they are struggling to get masks, gloves and other items from companies like Target-owned Shipt, Uber, Lyft and Instacart.
“PPE is still a huge issue for us,” Shipt shopper and organizer Willy Solis told TechCrunch. “We have dozens of reports across the country where shoppers have gone to pick up their equipment to be told it’s only for employees. On top of that, Target’s Twitter account essentially said that much.”
Earlier this month, Shipt workers staged a walk-off in protest of Shipt’s treatment of workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Around that time, Shipt said it would provide all shoppers with gloves and a mask within the next two weeks. Those shoppers, Shipt said, would be able to pick them up at their nearest Target stores. Shipt said it also would allow its most active shoppers to claim a free kit that included gloves and hand sanitizer. But some shoppers report struggling to pick up the PPE at Target and through the Shipt app.
Shipt declined to comment for this story, but pointed us to both Shipt’s and Target’s respective announcements.
Over in Los Angeles, some Uber and Lyft drivers say the rideshare companies have yet to provide them with face masks and other protective equipment. This is in light of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Worker Protection Order, which requires companies to provide essential workers with PPE.
“As an Uber driver, I’m incredibly vulnerable to infection,” Uber driver Deborah Garcia said in a statement. “I transport dozens of passengers every day, and many are the doctors and nurses dealing with coronavirus cases up close. Uber and Lyft love to talk about drivers as heroes on the frontlines, but what does it say about these companies that they’d rather brainstorm clever hashtags than use even a small slice of their billions to keep drivers like me safe? It’s infuriating, and it’s time for our elected officials to take action.”
Uber says it has begun distributing masks to active drivers and delivery workers throughout the nation, initially focused on New York City and Los Angeles. Active drivers and delivery people in Los Angeles who have requested masks should receive them in the mail by the end of this week, according to Uber.
“This is a long-term commitment,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have ordered tens of millions of masks for drivers around the world and expect another major shipment to the U.S. very soon.”
Uber says it has also started shipping around 30,000 bottles of disinfectant. Lyft, in response to claims that the company is not providing PPE, says what drivers are saying is not true.
“In light of the latest CDC guidance on cloth face coverings, we’ve ordered face masks for drivers at no cost to them,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We have been making them available to drivers, prioritizing regions where additional guidance about face coverings has been given. This includes LA, where we’ve already begun handing out thousands of face coverings to drivers.”
Lyft began distributing masks last Saturday, and distributed some more this past Monday and Wednesday. Lyft plans to distribute more on Friday. So far, Lyft says it has been able to hand out thousands of masks.
There are also reports that Instacart shoppers are having difficulty obtaining hand sanitizer and reusable face masks, according to The Hill. Instacart says it has been providing shoppers with hand sanitizer since last week and began shipping thousands of kits with face masks, sanitizer and thermometers this past Monday.
Nationwide, there is an understanding that gig workers delivering food and groceries, and providing rides to people during the pandemic, are essential. As more cities begin to implement rules requiring people to wear masks upon entering grocery stores, companies will be forced to step up their production and delivery of personal protective equipment to workers.