As Virus Rages, Essential Workers Seek Protection

willy solis essential workersWilly Solis has spearheaded the Gig Workers Collective, which seeks to organize Shipt, Instacart, Lyft, and other gig platforms.

By Brianne LaBare

Orlando, Fla.

Every morning, Willy Solis, a worker for Target’s Shipt delivery app, wipes down his dashboard and steering wheel with disinfectant wipes and slips on his gloves and mask, which he bought himself.

Then Solis drives to the grocery store, discards his used gloves in a garbage bag, and heads inside to begin filling orders.

At a time when essential workers are going above and beyond to serve the public, Solis can’t help but think about the hardships working for Shipt has brought upon him. Or the trash bag of used gloves sitting in his backseat.

Because of this, Solis has spearheaded the Gig Workers Collective, which includes workers for Shipt, Instacart, Lyft, and other gig platforms. Their main demand is that corporations provide personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, to help keep them safe.

“The major thing that shoppers try to do is make sure that they wear the proper PPE and have it at all times,” Solis said. “We have been providing that for ourselves for the most part during the pandemic, and a large majority of shoppers do express concern about spreading it to customers or to their families. That’s a major concern for us.”

In a statement to The Princeton Summer Journal, a Shipt spokesperson disputed this, saying shoppers can pick up face masks and gloves from their local Target store for free.

Concerns about safety span many essential jobs. Ada Fuentes is a senior membership organizer from Jobs with Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for worker rights. She
said Uber drivers were informed via email that they would get PPE. But many drivers were unable to access the equipment because Uber’s in-person driver help centers were closed due to the pandemic.

Uber said in a statement that drivers could request masks and sanitizer by mail or pick them up at reopened Greenlight Hubs. The company added that it had distributed more than 9 million masks, wipes, and containers of hand sanitizer, and that it had “never run
out of supplies.”

Still, through social media coverage, blog posts, and advocacy efforts, stories about mis-
treated essential workers abound. Solis of the Gig Workers Collective said that, during the pandemic, Shipt even made a temporary pay cut permanent. (The company said that, under its “updated pay model,” shopper base pay in most metro areas has remained the same, or even increased.)

“The CEOs of these companies are definitely not the ones out there doing this job on a daily basis and exposing themselves and their families to this,” Solis said. As for their treatment of the people who are: “to put it bluntly, it’s despicable.”

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