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Unionbusting Instacart

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Color me angry but by no means surprised.

Instacart is laying off every employee who voted to unionize, Motherboard reports. The news comes as the company shuts down in-store operations at some grocery stores amid the coronavirus pandemic and doubles down on curbside pickups.

The layoffs impact 10 unionized workers at a grocery store called Mariano’s, in addition to other Instacart employees. The group in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, voted to unionize last year with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546 (UFCW). It was a landmark victory for gig workers and represented “the first time employees of tech companies that rely predominantly on contract labor have formed a union to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions,” according to my colleague Nick Statt.

Employees were in the process of negotiating their first contract when news of the layoffs hit. “These layoffs are totally discouraging for any gig workers who are trying to do something to make these jobs better,” one unionized worker told Motherboard. They said they were fighting for health insurance and vacation time in their initial contract.

UFCW told Motherboard the layoffs will impact nearly 2,000 of the company’s 10,000 grocery store workers.

These gig companies are the new U.S. Steel, Pullman, and Standard Oil. They are just as anti-union and just as exploitative as any of those Gilded Age corporations. Just as evil too.

I’ve never used these services so it’s easy for me to boycott. Which reminds me of another observation. For a long time, I wondered what it would take to get large numbers of people of color to feel welcome shopping at Whole Foods. I should have known the answer from the beginning: white people paying them to shop so that they don’t have to expose themselves to potential disease.

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