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Albertsons to shed staff, use gig labor

Union points to California wage law by ELI ROSENBERG THE WASHINGTON POST | January 8, 2021 at 2:04 a.m.

The grocery chain Albertsons is laying off delivery workers and replacing them with gig and contract workers, a change that labor advocates and union representatives say is a direct result of the new California law that companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash sponsored last year.

Albertsons, a multibillion-dollar grocery chain that debuted a public offering last year, said it made the decision in December to lay off delivery staffers in many areas around the country and switch to "third-party logistics providers." The company has been partnering with the gig delivery service DoorDash since 2018.

It declined to give an estimate of how many positions would be affected but said workers would be offered the ability to continue to work, albeit as contractors.

The news about Albertsons grocery brands Vons and Pavilions, which was first reported by Los Angeles news site Knock, was greeted with anger from labor advocates in California, who have long warned that Proposition 22, the ballot measure that gave gig companies the ability to avoid giving workers protections like state-mandated minimum wage and overtime by classifying them as contractors and not employees, will result in job loss and give employers even more incentive to limit the compensation and benefits available to its workers.

"This is exactly what we were afraid of when app companies started pushing for a special carve out from labor laws," said Caitlin Vega, a labor advocate who works closely with California's Legislature. "If you create a subcategory that has fewer rights and wages, you're going to shift from traditional employment to this new category of work. And that's going to worsen the inequality that we already face."

Albertsons declined to comment on whether its decision was influenced by Proposition 22.

"This decision will allow us to compete in the growing home delivery market more effectively," the company said in a statement. "Since the covid-19 outbreak, our e-commerce business has risen to new heights and has become more strategically important to Albertsons Companies."

Unionized delivery workers will not be laid off in the shift, Albertsons said.

Information for this article was contributed by Faiz Siddiqui of The Washington Post.

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