Ed Ryder, author and grocery e-commerce observer, offers commentary on planned walkoff against Shipt, Target's grocery and home products delivery service.

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Fears of livelihoods being upended due to pay change has led to a planned walkout on July 15th by activist group "Shipt Shoppers."

“Increasing competition combined with the need to be profitable for investors, along with extensive availability of labor, makes pay adjustments downward inevitable,” says Ryder.

Ed Ryder, author of "Grocery Assistants," says the public fight being waged against Shipt by activist gig workers puts the spotlight on a gig economy problem... which is that grocery e-commerce giants like Shipt will naturally evolve to maximize profit and advance their enterprises. In the process, front line workers can take an earnings hit.

“Increasing competition combined with the need to be profitable for investors, along with extensive availability of labor, makes pay adjustments downward inevitable,” says Ryder.

On the opposing side, gig workers want to make worthwhile incomes. And this is where the main friction lies.

Activists are seeking to use the power of organization to fight back against things they see as inequities and threats to their livelihoods.

At the heart of the matter is Shipt's new algorithmic pay model, dubbed "V2." Previously, according to published sources*, every Shipt gig worker was paid $5 plus 7.5% of the order.

In regions where the new pay scheme is already in effect, workers have complained of earnings losses in the range of 25% and higher.

Last week, Shipt alarmed gig workers when notification was made of their intent to expand the algorithmic pay model to more cities on July 15th.

Activist group "Shipt Shoppers" announced the July 15th walkout on Medium.com in response to the pay change, which they describe as a "seismic company shift."

The July 15th event to bring attention to their grievances comes just 14 weeks after their last walkoff.

The group has loudly put up a fight against Shipt's treatment of gig workers since the start of April with campaigns and public messages attacking the new V2 algorithmic pay model, reduced pay on cancelled orders, unpaid tips, lack of PPE and hazard pay, difficulty in getting sick pay, worker censorship in online groups, and an atmosphere of fear and intimidation about speaking out.

Ryder, who also founded the newly formed Association of Independent Shoppers, doesn't think a 1-day attempted strike will do anything except bring greater awareness to the downside of believing in a gig company to have your back. "Gig workers are easily disposable. The workers have almost no leverage. They’re going to begin to realize this.”

In addition to being at the mercy of grocery e-commerce companies, Ryder says another problem for gig workers is the heavy reliance on fortuity.

"Gig workers start their days having no way of knowing how much they will actually make. It comes down to 3 things: hustle, geographic area, and luck."

"Will they get enough orders? Will they get good orders? And will the customers tip generously enough? That's a lot of reliance on things gig workers can't control," says Ryder.

Ryder suggests to gig workers, if they truly enjoy grocery shopping, to begin pivoting toward starting their own grocery shopping services where they work as personal shoppers for their own customers. He says it is a way to develop predictable, steady weekly income.

Ryder says his book, fully titled: “Grocery Assistants — The handbook to starting-up your own grocery shopping & delivery business,” gives readers, including disenfranchised gig workers, strategies and shortcuts to getting started.    

What’s missing in many of these online grocery transactions is the personal touch, says Ryder. He advocates that independent shoppers charge a fair rate for their time with no expectation of a tip. In return the customer gets the same friendly face each week and no mark-up on their grocery order.

Ryder’s association also offers support services to help independent shoppers get a successful start.

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