Instacart is firing the 10 employees who voted to form the first and only union on the grocery delivery platform at a Mariano’s grocery store in Skokie, Illinois. The actions of the group, who voted to unionize last February with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546 (UFCW), have inspired Instacart employees at grocery stores across the country to organize their coworkers. At the time of the group’s union drive in 2020, Instcart ran a union-busting campaign, distributing anti-union literature in an attempt to convince workers to vote down the union.
The termination of these employees was buried in a larger series of layoffs impacting Instacart’s in-store shoppers, announced by the company on Tuesday. The UFCW says that Instacart is firing nearly 20 percent of its 10,000 grocery store delivery workers as part of these layoffs and, continuing the company’s dedication to worker exploitation, offering as little as $250 in severance pay.
At the time of the firings, Motherboard reports that the union was in the process of negotiating their first contract, in which they hoped to secure health insurance and vacation time—a change which could have helped gig workers across the U.S. secure better working conditions. “These layoffs are totally discouraging for any gig workers who are trying to do something to make these jobs better,” said one of the unionized in-store Instacart shoppers from Skokie.
“Anger is the first thing I feel because they eliminated my job during a pandemic and the reason they gave us is ‘cost-cutting,’” the worker continued. “The second thing I feel is fear. Am I going to be lucky enough to get another job? I had a business that was closed for being non-essential and I didn’t have enough money to keep it going and open it back up. From a financial standpoint, I lost everything. With this job, while it doesn’t pay super well, I could at least pay for my cell phone and car insurance and buy groceries.”