With help from John Hendel and Leah Nylen
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— Front-line gig workers revolt: Instacart shoppers across the country are set to go on strike today to demand more physical and financial protection from the grocery delivery platform that has seen its business surge in recent weeks.
— Amazon walkout: After employees in at least 10 Amazon warehouses across the country tested positive for coronavirus, workers at a New York City facility are walking out today to demand the company do more to protect them.
— Valley vs. virus: Leading Silicon Valley tech companies are shelling out millions (Facebook) or hundreds of millions (Google) to support global response efforts and accelerate the search for a Covid-19 cure.
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TODAY: GIG WORKERS GO ON STRIKE — Many of Instacart’s hundreds of thousands of shoppers are going on strike today to protest the grocery delivery app’s handling of their safety concerns during the worsening pandemic. The countrywide campaign, led by Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective, demands that workers receive basic safety essentials (like hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectant products) at no cost and get “hazard pay” made up of an extra $5 per order and a default in-app tip amount of at least 10 percent. The groups also want to expand protective benefits like sick pay to workers beyond only those who’ve tested positive for the virus or have been put into mandatory quarantine by officials to also include those with pre-existing conditions or other risk factors. The groups said they “will not return to work until our demands are met.”
— “Instacart has turned this pandemic into a PR campaign, portraying itself the hero of families that are sheltered-in-place, isolated, or quarantined,” they wrote in a blog post. “Instacart has still not provided essential protections to Shoppers on the front lines that could prevent them from becoming carriers, falling ill themselves, or worse.” They continued: “We will not risk our safety, our health, or our lives for a company that fails to adequately protect us, fails to adequately pay us, and fails to provide us with accessible benefits should we become sick.”
— Remember: The $2 trillion emergency relief package passed Friday was a key win for self-employed, contract and gig economy workers, who are now set to receive expanded unemployment insurance benefits, as we reported in MT. “This bill is an incredible victory for the millions of freelancers who are unable to work due to this crisis,” Freelancers Union President Rafael Espinal said Friday afternoon. Instacart workers are calling “for more substantial and preventative help.”
— Instacart told MT on Sunday that it would begin providing free disinfecting supplies to full-service shoppers (a majority of the platform). The company also announced a new customer tip setting on Sunday that defaults the tip to the amount the user tipped on the previous order. A spokesperson did not address MT’s questions on how the platform plans to handle the shopper shortage during the strike and whether the company will make further concessions to those workers.
MEANWHILE: PROTEST AT AMAZON — Employees at Amazon’s JFK8 facility in New York City are walking out today to amplify their complaints that the company isn’t doing enough to protect warehouse workers as some have tested positive for coronavirus at facilities across the country. “All employers need to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce at this time,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Amazon appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees’ safety — and that is unacceptable.”
— Scrambling to respond to demands for grocery deliveries, Amazon is also offering many of those same warehouse workers more money to switch over to picking and packing groceries at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, Reuters reports.
COVID UPDATES FROM SILICON VALLEY — Silicon Valley giants continue to put their money and power behind the battle against Covid-19.
— Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced Friday that the search giant is committing more than $800 million to support coronavirus crisis response by health organizations, governments and businesses around the world. That includes $340 million in Google Ads credits for small and mid-size businesses and $250 million in ad grants for the World Health Organization and more than 100 government agencies. Google is also lending financial support, supply chain resources and engineering and health care expertise to help partners and suppliers more quickly produce facemasks for the CDC and ventilators, Pichai said.
— Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating $25 million to study existing drugs that could be used to prevent or treat the fast-spreading virus, which lacks an imminent cure. “Since these drugs have already gone through clinical safety trials, if they’re effective, it will be much faster to make them available than it will be to develop and test a new vaccine — hopefully months rather than a year or more,” he said.
— Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Friday that the tech giant had worked with the White House and FEMA to launch a new app and website updating users on coronavirus testing information and the latest CDC guidelines, as POLITICO’s Mohana Ravindranath reported for Pros. “As always,” Cook said on Twitter, “the data is yours and your privacy is protected.”
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FTC, DOJ RESUME EARLY TERMINATIONS — The U.S.’s two antitrust agencies said they will resume so-called early terminations for mergers that don’t raise competitive concerns, Leah reported for Pros. Starting today, companies can ask the FTC or DOJ to let them finalize non-problematic deals more quickly, instead of waiting the 30 days required by statute. “Covid-19 has changed the game for merger review,” said Megan Browdie, a partner at Cooley. The agencies “do not want to be a bottleneck in an already stressed economy and so do seem to be making efforts to facilitate procompetitive transactions.” The agencies moved to an online system for merger reviews on March 17 and suspended early terminations at that time. Browdie told MT that the agencies’ announcement likely means they haven’t been experiencing problems with the new system and employees’ move to telework.
PLUS: FTC DELAYS SCRUTINY ON INSTA INFLUENCERS — The FTC extended its deadline for public comment on whether the agency should revise its endorsement policies for social media influencers who use Instagram and YouTube to plug products and brands, an effort MT examined earlier this year. Due to the pandemic, the April 21 deadline was moved to June 22.
FCC FINDS TIME TO WEIGH INTERNAL CONSOLIDATION — Media industry, take note: As of the past week, an FCC action item is now circulating that could spell some structural changes within the commission, specifically within its Media Bureau that deals with TV and radio issues. “If adopted, this proposal would consolidate the Media Bureau’s Engineering Division with the Bureau’s Industry Analysis Division,” an FCC spokesperson told John.
— Context on a shrinking bureau: For the coming fiscal year, the FCC requested funding for 131 full-time employees for its Media Bureau, a number that’s been dwindling in recent years amid the changing media landscape. By comparison, there were 171 full-time staff for the bureau in fiscal year 2015, 183 in 2012 and more than 250 just a few years prior.
Tony Samp, a government affairs policy advisor at DLA Piper focusing on the law firm’s artificial intelligence practice, has joined the Center for a New American Security as an adjunct senior fellow in the technology and national security program. … Pat Garofalo, formerly of Talk Poverty, will begin soon as director of state and local policy at the American Economic Liberties Project.
Layoffs continue: The clothing rental platform Rent the Runway laid off its entire retail staff via Zoom on Friday, The Verge reports.
Tech for good: “How I’ve been using free virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to connect and stay sober while in COVID-19 isolation,” via Business Insider.
Blog OTD: The Future of Privacy Forum put together a repository on how countries around the world are addressing data and privacy issues related to Covid-19. Here is the repository, and here is the organization’s Privacy and Pandemics blog.
Wedditors: Reddit’s most popular wedding planning channel “has become a source of detailed information on coronavirus for frustrated couples whose dream days have been derailed by the pandemic,” WIRED reports.