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California’s Prop 22, spurred by AB5, finds early victims: Grocery delivery drivers

Albertsons, subsidiaries turn to alternatives such as DoorDash

Albertsons and subsidiaries will outsource the delivery of groceries to companies like DoorDash, a move made possible by Proposition 22’s Election Day victory.

The impact of Proposition 22, the California referendum that took people and food delivery services out from under AB5, has created what appears to be the first tangible impact: the firing of in-house delivery drivers at a major supermarket chain.

Albertsons and its subsidiaries, including Vons, are eliminating their in-house delivery service in favor of independent contractors working for services like DoorDash. DoorDash was one of the key backers of Proposition 22, which won a big victory on Election Day. The elimination of the in-house drivers was first reported by Knock LA, an independent news source in the Los Angeles area. 

Albertson’s later confirmed the main core of the report in a comment to MarketWatch. “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,” MarketWatch quoted an Albertsons spokesman in its story on the dismissals. “We will transition that portion of our e-commerce operations to third-party logistics providers who specialize in that service.”

Albertsons had not responded to several questions submitted by FreightWaves by publication time.

Truck drivers in California are awaiting the outcome of an appeal by the state and the Teamsters to the injunction that has blocked the imposition of AB5 in the state since Jan. 1, 2020, when the law went into effect. AB5 governs the use of independent contractors and is written in such a way that it would appear to block trucking companies from employing independent owner-operators as drivers without also making them employees.

The suit brought by the California Trucking Association against AB5, and the injunction that came from it, is being reviewed by a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court. Some observers believe that overturning the injunction is a distinct possibility.

While some reports of the Albertsons dismissals said the drivers were union workers, a source close to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents Albertsons workers, said the drivers were not represented by the organization. 

The dismissals of the drivers set off a back-and-forth on social media, where anti- and pro-AB5 forces, including the Assembly sponsor of the bill, Lorena Gonzalez, regularly engage in passionate debate about the law. In discussing the Albertsons decision, the argument sort of went, “See, you Prop 22 proponents? People are losing their jobs because of it!” And the retort from the AB5 opponents was, “If you didn’t pass AB5, with all the negative impact on various freelance and independent contractor professions, we never would have needed Prop 22.”

In a statement to Business Insider, Albertsons said the change in policy would be implemented Feb. 27. It also said the company would seek to place drivers affected by the change in other positions in its stores.

Although the union source said the drivers impacted by the Albertsons move are not unionized, the organization did put out a statement about the move. The wording indicated that it had not been contacted by Albertsons, which does support the likelihood that reports the drivers were unionized were incorrect.

“All across California, Vons and Pavilions grocery workers have been bravely serving on the frontlines since the pandemic began, putting their own health at risk to ensure Californians have the food they need during this crisis,” the statement said. “As the union for grocery workers across California, UFCW is calling on Albertsons to immediately halt these plans and to put the health of their customers first by protecting the jobs of these brave essential workers at a time when our communities need them most.”

More articles by John Kingston

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