Unionization may be a good thing for employees but for those working at Instacart, such may not be the best choice at the moment. The company is reportedly firing employees who cast their votes for unionization.
Instacart has just shut down in-store operations and expanded more efforts towards curbside pickups due to pandemic woes. Along with this, it also laid off its employees who voted to unionize. The recent layoff hit 10 of the company's unionized employees working at the grocery store Mariano's, and that's on top of other Instacart employees who were already fired.
A report from The Verge noted that the 10 employees, all in Skokie, Illinois, voted in favor of unionization last year together with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546 (UFCW). The vote to unionize was considered as a victory for workers in the tech industry since for so long a time, they would always rely on contract labor. With the formed union, they will be able to make a collective effort and bargain with management for benefits, better wages, and working conditions.
The UFCW told Motherboard that the company has around 10,000 grocery store workers and is firing almost 2,000 of them. The severance that the company pays for workers who were part of the layoff was around $250.
In 2020, when the workers were working on their drive to unionize, the manager of Instacart was also running his own union-busting campaign. Chris Nolan, the senior operations manager of Instacart, wrote a memo to employees saying, "I encourage you to look at all of the FACTS and vote "NO" on February 1st."
He even said that employees might be under the impression that if they give the UFCW, particularly the Local 1546 the right to represent them, it will give them greater control of their work lives. However, Nolan said that membership in UFCW would usher in a whole set of rules that the employees need to follow.
Aside from the memo that asks the grocery store workers to cast a "No" vote, there was another memo that listed down the perceived disadvantages of being a union member. The memo stated that dues are expensive and that the union will make sure that it would be easy for the union to collect dues.
The UFCW said that Instacart workers are planning to negotiate with management with a goal to improve things like access to health care and also issues concerning hourly wages.
Instacart, in a blog post about new items for pickup, stated that it would be transferring some of the impacted employeess to other branches and that they would provide transition assistance to those who are looking for work.