Jonathan Perales: Uber driver for about one year in Arlington, Texas
Perales leases a car from Uber to work for them, at $255 per week, because he can’t afford the upfront cost of purchasing a car or the maintenance if something happens to it.
He’s currently living out of the car he rents from Uber after he could no longer afford to live in the extended motel he was staying in due to getting sick during the coronavirus pandemic, but unable to find anywhere to get tested.
“On the 13th of March I started experiencing symptoms,” said Perales, who went to the hospital, but was advised to self-quarantine as they were rationing tests at the time for those who were gravely ill. “I had reported to Uber on the 13th that I had symptoms so I could inquire about the assistance they were talking about on the news, but instead I was suspended without pay pending a positive COVID-19 test.”
He tried to submit medical documents directly to Uber, but Perales explained they wanted the documents directly sent from medical professionals. In the meantime, Perales tried to find somewhere to get tested for COVID-19, but was unable to do so. In the meantime, Uber would not provide him with financial assistance.
“Nothing arrived and I ended up homeless. I wasn't able to keep up with the rent for the motel room without a job and they kicked me out,” he said.
His Uber account’s suspension was lifted shortly after he became homeless, and received $317 from Uber in paid sick leave, far short of the two weeks paid leave Uber promised drivers if they were diagnosed or forced to self-quarantine. Perales said he normally makes between $1500 to $2000 a week before expenses.
“I was given $317 to survive for two weeks. Given that I’m sleeping in my car, I don’t think that quite worked out,” Perales added. He has returned to driving after his symptoms have gone away, but his income has declined significantly due to the drastic reduction in demand for rides.
Kate Walton: Emergency Room Nurse for thirteen years in Madison, Wisconsin
According to Walton, the coronavirus pandemic is just beginning to surge in Wisconsin. Their hospital is already conserving personal protective equipment such as reusing N95 masks.
“We’re just starting to see the really sick patients now. They take up a lot of time and a lot of resources and we know this is just the beginning,” said Walton. “As we’re waiting for this tidal wave to hit, it’s been really frustrating to watch our legislators at the state and federal level pass the buck on everything. Our state legislators took a two week vacation in the middle of this. I don’t get to not report to work during a pandemic, but apparently they do.”
Walton also expressed concern and frustration with Wisconsin moving forward with plans to hold primary elections on Tuesday, April 7, despite the public health risks it poses.
“It’s been frustrating. We already have a sense of dread watching what is coming for us,” added Walton. They cited elected officials should be taking steps to address personal protective equipment, provide paid sick leave to workers, and provide frontline workers with hazard pay during the pandemic. “We’re putting our families and loved ones at risk. We need our leaders to step up and do the things they should have been doing all along to make us safer, make our workplace safer, and to help us be able to do our jobs safely and do them well.”
Dan Vaughan Cherubin: Food Bank coordinator for over one year in Albany, New York
The demand for food assistance has at least quadrupled over the past few weeks due to more people facing food insecurity due to mass layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Vaughan Cherubin, a coordinator at Food Pantries for the Capital District, which operates 60 food pantries in four counties in Upstate New York. The network has worked to shift their volunteer network to remote work and seeking monetary donations in lieu of food donations due to concerns over the spread of the virus.
“We lost one of our board members to the virus last week. He was an incredible person and on top of being a board member he regularly volunteered to unload food orders from our box trucks at one of our network pantries. This loss has left us raw and fearful of how many more,” said Vaughan Cherubin. “This is a new normal I did not ever think I’d have to adjust to.”
Max Blechman: Uber driver for about one year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When the coronavirus pandemic began to surge in the US, 25 year old Blechman got sick with flu-like symptoms. He was able to get tested for COVID 19, and the results came back negative, but he’s self quarantined himself over the past two weeks with no pay from Uber.
“Paying bills is a worry right now. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for rent, electricity, water, all that kind of stuff,” said Blechman. He filed for unemployment benefits on March 28 after the federal stimulus bill passed to include the benefits for gig economy workers, but has yet to receive them. He’s also still working on obtaining paid sick leave benefits from Uber due to a self-quarantine recommendation from a doctor while he awaited coronavirus test results.
“Uber has made virtually no efforts to help us combat this disease,” added Blechman. “They don’t offer personal protective equipment to drivers, they don’t offer hazard pay, they don’t offer paid sick time unless you get a note from a doctor, and that’s hard to get right now, and they’re still investing a ton of money in fighting employment for drivers when that money could go towards relief efforts or guaranteeing pay to struggling drivers.”
Matthew Telles: Instacart Shopper for five years outside of Chicago, Illinois
Instacart is hiring 300,000 additional shoppers to meet increased demands for grocery delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, enticing new workers with referral bonuses.
Telles claimed the Instacart referral bonuses used to lure new workers is misleading.
“They are getting that referral bonus money by bundling three orders together under one payment, which equates to free labor. While Instacart doesn’t have to pay for two out of three orders, they’re able to move that money into a referral bonus fund which is really hard to get. They will throttle that new shopper at the end of the bonus period making sure they don’t get access to batches, therefore they get a new hire and don’t have to pay for it as well. It’s just a scam,” said Telles.
He explained that while payouts have decreased due to Instacart consolidating batches of orders into one, working conditions have worsened due to new, untrained shoppers and the increased volume of people going to grocery stores.
“For the first time in years doing this job, I’m sweating at the register doing three orders to make $30 for 2 hours of work and 20 miles of driving. You’re in constant flight or fight mode. It’s scary. I’m still panicked anytime I leave my car,” added Telles. “And there’s an influx of new shoppers who don’t understand the job, they are crowding the grocery stores, asking grocery workers to do the job for them. Where’s this item? Where’s that item? For a whole order.”
Angie Kufner: Shipt and Instacart shopper for two years in Des Moines, Iowa
Kufner has also recently stopped shopping for Instacart and Shipt because she is immunocompromised and takes care of her elderly father, who is also at risk.
“It’s not safe for me to do it. So I have zero income. Shipt, Instacart, any of these companies are not doing anything to support the workers who either have to stay home because they’re immunocompromised, or get sick and show symptoms, but it’s nearly impossible to get tested,” said Kufner. “The pay has gotten worse. I have so many examples of getting paid $4 to $6 for an order that takes an hour to complete. People are getting paid way below minimum wage. They’re not giving people anything safety wise. No hand sanitizer, no wipes, nothing, and all these new people coming in are so desperate for money.”
She explained people like herself who cannot work are being left behind and replaced with hiring new workers en masse who are desperate for work. “These companies don’t care. It’s all about profit,” Kufner added.
Ashley Johnson: Instacart shopper for over a year in Seattle, Washington
“Instacart is mismanaging it, but also using the pandemic as an exploitative measure so they can make it a profit game for them,” said Johnson. “Instacart is saying they’re doing all these things, but there are so many hoops to jump through”
Johnson criticized Instacart’s announcement of hiring 300,000 new workers, nearly double their current number of 175,000 shoppers.
“I get angry over it. It’s really scary and disheartening when you think of the customer base, a lot are just trying to do the right thing and stay home, or they are at risk of being impacted by the virus, and that is who Instacart is profiting from,” she added.