Food delivery workers at San Francisco-based Imperfect Foods have voted to unionize, according to United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5, which represents 30,000 California food and retail workers across the Bay Area. Reasons that the union cited for the vote were to strengthen pay, increase access to health care, and improve health and safety protections for the front-line workers amid the pandemic.
Imperfect Foods, a tech-driven grocery startup that delivers surplus or “imperfect” produce and other food items directly to consumers in various states, recently revealed $110 million in its latest funding round. The company employs 80 employees on the delivery team.
In the wake of California’s Proposition 22, the measure passed last November that preserves the ability of delivery companies like Instacart, Postmates and DoorDash to classify their workers as independent contractors, UFCW said that it’s “holding gig-economy and food delivery companies accountable and continuing the push to protect essential food delivery workers who are serving as a critical lifeline, protecting food access for those who are high-risk or quarantining as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”
“UFCW Local 5 is organizing the grocery delivery sector because essential workers who deliver our groceries should be able to count on the same benefits and protections as the essential workers in our grocery stores,” said Jim Araby, campaigns director for Hayward, California-based UFCW Local 5. “As technology makes it easier to access groceries during the pandemic, we must ensure that the essential workers in this sector who are on the front lines are protected and have a voice on the job.”
The campaign to unionize Imperfect Foods workers began last July. According to UFCW Local 5, Imperfect Foods tried to stop workers from unionizing by hiring a union-busting consultant, held daily two-hour mandatory meetings for two consecutive weeks in a bid to intimidate workers, threatened to outsource the jobs of these workers to contractors, changed people’s shifts to disrupt the campaign, and promised raises and promotions to workers who voted against unionizing.
“The company believes that the results were materially impacted by the inability of certain drivers to timely obtain ballots,” Imperfect Foods countered in a statement provided to Progressive Grocer. “Because of this possible hindrance in the voting process, the company intends to challenge the results of the election. Imperfect Foods wants to ensure all voices are heard and will continue to provide its drivers the competitive benefits, wages and supportive working environment they deserve.”
This past January, 250 Safeway drivers joined UFCW Local 5, becoming the first food delivery workers at the grocery store chain to unionize. In February 2020, UFCW helped Instacart workers unionize for the first time in the company’s history.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 398 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the banners Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen. The company is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.