Hundreds of California’s in-house grocery store delivery drivers are set to be laid off by massive chain Albertsons and its Los Angeles subsidiaries on February 27, according to multiple reports. Instead, Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, and Pavilions locations across Southern California will utilize third-party delivery apps that regulate its drivers as independent contractors, not employees. The announcement stems directly from Proposition 22, the narrowly-approved California ballot measure from 2020 that allows large companies to identify entire portions of its workforce (like Uber and its drivers, for example) as contract employees only, thus denying those workers of many employment benefits and protections.
In a statement to Newsweek, Albertsons wrote the following: “Albertsons Companies made the strategic decision to discontinue using our own home delivery fleet of trucks in select locations, including Southern California, beginning February 27, 2021. We will transition that portion of our eCommerce operations to third-party logistics providers who specialize in that service.”
Technically, this shift did not begin with Prop. 22. It started a year ago when California’s Assembly Bill 5 went into effect on January 1, 2020. That bill required that workers who perform duties that are part of a company’s standard operations to be classified (after meeting a threshold of work hours or performed tasks) as employees instead of independent contractors, with all the protections and benefits afforded to other full-time employees, including unionization. Food delivery and ride-hailing apps argued that their drivers should remain as contract employees, setting the stage for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to pour in hundreds of millions of dollars to pass Prop. 22 statewide. It worked, just barely, with California voters choosing to allow those companies to continue to skirt AB-5. Drivers also still do not receive hazard pay, even as coronavirus cases skyrocket across greater Los Angeles.
Knock LA reports that Albertsons’ move will gut worker protections like the rising minimum wage, unemployment insurance, sick pay, and labor oversight, leaving drivers as piecemeal workers responsible for their own healthcare and other needs. Albertsons is the second largest grocer in the United States, behind only Kroger.