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In a first, Instacart employees in Illinois vote to unionize

Instacart in-store shoppers in Skokie, Ill., have voted to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546.

UFCW 1546 said the workers are the first Instacart employees to win a certified union election in the United States and will join with the Chicago-based local’s other 18,000 members. The Feb. 1 vote, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, involved 15 part-time Instacart personal shoppers at a Mariano’s supermarket, part of The Kroger Co., in Skokie.

“We’re very happy with the results of the election. It is the first in the nation in regard to Instacart,” UFCW 1546 President Bob O’Toole told Supermarket News. “And I’m glad to hear that Instacart has committed to honor the choice the employees made in the election and bargain in good faith to reach a contract.”

Overall, San Francisco-based Instacart employs 12,000 in-store shoppers and 130,000 full-service shoppers to fulfill online grocery orders for same-day delivery or pickup. In-store shoppers, however, are part-time Instacart employees who pick, pack and stage items at a dedicated retail store, whereas full-service shoppers operate as independent contractors who pick, pack and/or deliver an order from a store to the customer’s door.

“Instacart cares deeply about all members of our community, which includes in-store shoppers who are part-time employees. We will always support employee freedom and choice, and we respect our employees’ rights to explore unionization,” Instacart said in a statement. “Pending certification of the election results, Instacart will honor the outcome of this election and the decision of these 15 part-time employees in Skokie to choose union representation. We will then begin the process of negotiating in good faith on an initial collective-bargaining agreement that covers this location.”

So far, no timetable has been set for contract talks with Instacart to begin, according to UFCW 1546’s O’Toole. “We would certainly prefer sooner — the sooner the better, because it can be a lengthy process,” he said.

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