In a move first spotted by Motherboard, Instacart is laying off 1,877 workers who were classified as employees at the company. Among those included in the layoffs are 10 workers in Illinois who in 2020 were the first to unionize within the company. Instacart informed the United Foods and Commercial Workers union, which represents the workers from Illinois, in a letter it sent to the organization.
“We know this is an incredibly challenging time for many as we move through the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re doing everything we can to support in-store shoppers through this transition,” Instacart said in a blog post it published on January 19th, which alluded to the layoffs. The company is providing severance packages to those affected by the move, as well as trying to place them in open positions either in the company itself or at its retail partners. Instacart told Bloomberg that “thousands” of its shoppers are still classified as employees, but didn’t share a specific number. The United Food and Commercial Workers said the move impacts at least 20 percent of Instacart’s frontline positions in the US.
In the blog post referencing the layoffs, the company said it had been testing new workflows with its retail partners. One of those is called Partner Pick. With Partner Pick, grocery store employees, instead of Instacart shoppers, use the company’s technology stack to prepare orders for customers. “As a result of some grocers transitioning to a Partner Pick model, we’ll be winding down our in-store operations at select retailer locations over the coming months,” the company said in the post.
Understandably, the company has come under fire for the decision. “Instacart firing the only unionized workers at the company and destroying the jobs of nearly 2,000 dedicated front-line workers in the middle of this public health crisis is simply wrong,” Marc Perrone, the president of United Foods and Commercial Workers union said. Instacart was one of the companies that spent millions last year to pass Prop 22 in California. The ballot measure sought to carved out the state’s AB5 law and prevent it from classifying gig economy workers as employees of the companies they work for.