Skip to main content

Instacart workers voted to unionize this past weekend for better working conditions

Instacart workers voted to unionize this past weekend for better working conditions

/

It was a small group of employees, but it could signal a broader shift for gig workers

Share this story

Instacart Shopping Service
Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A group of Instacart employees in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, voted to unionize this past weekend with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546 chapter, Motherboard reported. The union vote is a landmark victory for gig worker activism, as it represents 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.

The workers that voted to unionize were not contract workers but are classified as part-time Instacart employees due to how the grocery delivery company structures its operation. Instacart mainly relies on a fleet of more than 140,000 contract workers who, like Uber and Lyft drivers and other delivery workers for on-demand platforms, are not paid a wage and instead make money per delivery.

Because Instacart requires careful coordination of grocery orders in-store, it has hired more than 12,000 in-store “shoppers” who work just under 30 hours a week at a fixed wage, which is under the threshold that would require Instacart provide benefits like health care, Motherboard reported. Still, thanks to labor laws, Instacart is required to classify these workers as part-time employees, instead of contract workers, due to the nature of their work and the fact that Instacart exerts control over the number of hours per week they work. That, in turn, has made those specific Instacart workers eligible to unionize.

Instacart relies on in-store workers paid an hourly wage, making them eligible to unionize

This past weekend, a group of 15 did just that by coordinating with the local UFCW chapter and overcoming an anti-union campaign Instacart waged by sending managers to the grocery store, Mariano’s, where the workers packed up orders. “The workers remained united throughout the organizing campaign despite being subjected to their company’s anti-union stance,” Bob O’Toole, the UFCW Local 1546 president, said in a press statement. “We look forward to this opportunity to work with our new Instacart members in negotiating their first union contract.”

According to the UFCW, the Instacart workers now plan to begin working on a collective bargaining agreement that will be negotiated with corporate management, with the aim of improving items like access to health care, hourly wages, and time off, among others.

“Instacart cares deeply about all members of our community, which includes in-store shoppers who are part-time employees,” an Instacart spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. “We will always support employee freedom and choice, and we respect our employees’ rights to explore unionization.” The spokesperson says Instacart “will honor the outcome of this election,” and the company will negotiate a contract “in good faith.”

Unionization and broader labor activism have become hot-button topics throughout the tech industry over the past few years, both within the ranks of full-time employees at high-profile institutions like Google and among the contracts workforces of the industry’s most successful on-demand platforms. Amazon, Google (as well as YouTube), Kickstarter, Tesla, and numerous other companies have aggressively pushed back against efforts from full-time workers to unionize, in some cases refusing to voluntarily recognize unions and participating in anti-union and union-busting activities.

But the situation is slightly more promising in the gig economy workforce, which is composed of much more vulnerable workers and has a much broader groundswell of support from activists and politicians. Numerous laws around the country, most notably the controversial California AB5 bill, have put pressure on companies that rely on contract workers, like Uber and DoorDash and others, to classify those people as full-time employees.

Uber and other on-demand companies are currently fighting the California law, but the general attitude around unionization and worker protections has shifted significantly of late. Labor actions like those of the Instacart employees in Skokie signal that pro-worker movements within the tech industry will likely only intensify. Kickstarter, which has fought its employees’ decision to unionize for nearly a year now, would become the first tech company with an employee union if its election with the National Labor Review Board results in a yes vote to unionize. According to Motherboard, the results of that vote will be counted next month.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


E
TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


J
Youtube
James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.


R
Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.


The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
J
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!


T
External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and like.no.other.


C
External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.