Labor Rights Other Issues

Illinois Workers Vote to Form First Instacart Union in the United States

Workers for grocery delivery service Instacart in the Chicago, Illinois, suburb of Skokie voted on Saturday to unionize.

The vote at Mariano’s grocery store, part of a local chain, was 10-4 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546, making it the first Instacart union in the country. The successful move to unionize from the shoppers came despite a union-busting campaign, with high-level managers distributing anti-union literature and emails.

Instacart employs 12,000 shoppers, legally classified as part-time employees. One of the lead organizers of the union drive described frequent penalizations from the company’s algorithm, a high item-per-minute quota under a timer, and not receiving healthcare benefits as evidence that “workers are treated so badly.” The company also employs over 130,000 gig workers, labelled as independent contractors, who deliver groceries to homes.

The company has faced public backlash in previous months over its default 5% tip, which incited calls for a boycott earlier in January. In 2016, the default tip percentage was decreased from 10% and a 5% service fee was introduced. Shoppers say this change has cut into their net wages. Instacart gave in to pressure and outrage over its policies concerning independent contractors and now provides workplace injury coverage, a student loan repayment program, access to’s care provider platform and expanded financial and health wellness resources.

Instacart has also put $10 million into fighting California’s AB 5 law, which makes it harder for companies to misclassify gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Uber, Lyft and Doordash cumulatively are spending $90 million towards a ballot measure to repeal AB 5.

The president of UFCW 1546 said he and the union “look forward to this opportunity to work with our new Instacart members in negotiating their first union contract.”

Sources: Vice News 1/27/20; CNBC 1/14/20; Venture Beat 8/21/19; Mother Jones 1/29/20; USA Today 8/11/19; Chris Opfer 2/1/20.

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