Instacart Is Laying Off Every Unionized Worker. Here's What You Should Know

Shopping online makes our day so much easier. When we don't have time to make it to the grocery store, services like FreshDirect or Instacart can make anyone's life that much better. If you love shopping conveniently and ethically, you might have your work cut out for you in the coming days. According to Vice, Instacart fired 10 of its employees in Skokie, Illinois who created the business's first union and inspired a handful of other locations to consider unionizing. This layoff came as part of an even larger purge that laid off 2,000 of the brand's 10,000 workers, per Vice.

According to Instacart, this layoff came in the name of public health, shifting some employees away from in-store shopping operations due to COVID-19 concerns and growing demand for a different curbside pickup model. Still, the employees who have been let go feel blindsided, especially considering some of their severance pay adds up to as little as $250, per Vice. The layoffs come on the heels of the announcement that Instacart plans to expand into untapped regional markets across the U.S. The company has a value estimated at $30 billion thanks to raking in profits during the pandemic, and they've partnered with Goldman-Sachs to lead their initial public offering this coming year (via CNBC).

A blow against workers rights across the food landscape

The unionization of Instacart employees made major waves in 2020. According to The Guardian, widespread protests launched by essential workers in a variety of fields during 2020 helped pave the way for greater workplace protection from coronavirus, as well as increased benefits due to the risk these individuals incurred. Many businesses saw some major shifts after these protests, but these events didn't change everything. According to Autoblog, certain state laws like California's Proposition 22 help prevent the unionization of drivers for services like Instacart or Lyft, while also denying workers' compensation for these professions. In the current political landscape, the future of essential workers who fuel businesses like Instacart — often contractors rather than employees —  appears very precarious.

Only time can tell what happens next, but laying off union members should send shockwaves through the industry. According to Vice, the leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers have taken notice, and have called on Instacart to suspend their firing of its members. The future now lies in the hands of company executives, and their decision to bring back the Instacart employees or maintain the layoffs.