The Way We Work Now

I Lost My Vons Delivery Job to California’s Prop 22

I voted for the ballot measure because I thought it’d help drivers like me. Now I’m out of a job.

The Way We Work Now is a series chronicling how people’s lives and careers have fundamentally changed because of the pandemic.

This anonymous delivery driver, 39, spoke with Mai Tran about being laid off from the grocery store Vons after its parent company, Albertsons, announced it will no longer offer in-house delivery services to customers. The decision comes after California passed Proposition 22, a ballot measure favored by gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft, which now designates drivers as independent contractors instead of employees.

All the drivers found out about the layoffs on December 8, when we got an abrupt message saying we had a mandatory conference call. Other drivers were extremely upset. Everyone had questions: “What’s the deal? I thought we were making good business.” The company tried to smooth it over by saying, “We understand that you’re upset and this is a hard decision.” Well, it’s not exactly a hard decision when you’re just looking at figures and numbers on a screen.

The layoffs will be effective at the end of February. They tried to cushion the fall by offering a severance pay if we stayed on until the end, and said they would help us to look for another job within the company, whether it be in a store or a warehouse. I never had a delivery job before this, but I saw the ad in March 2018, and thought it would be easy to do. With Covid-19 happening this past year, to say that business was booming would be an understatement. I was making double what I used to make when I started working for Vons.

I never even considered working for Uber or Lyft. When I first heard about Proposition 22, I honestly thought it was a good thing. Both my wife and I voted yes. Because of the way the ads were worded, we thought we would be helping the DoorDash, Instacart, and Uber drivers. We didn’t realize that voting yes would hurt me and my fellow drivers. It was a bit of a bait and switch. Now, the only drivers staying on are the unionized ones, the ones in Northern California. All the other drivers in California are not unionized.

It’s easy to sit behind a desk and look at a screen to see how you can save a couple bucks, but not when you’re dealing with actual clientele.

The average shift is about four hours. I start at 7:30 a.m., then take a lunch break and do another shift until 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. We’re not allowed to deliver past 10 p.m. I have an average of nine or 10 stops in the morning, and seven or eight in the afternoon. I get my assignment then clock in through a work phone, then get my truck from the head shopper. Each Vons has a fleet of at least three or four refrigerated trucks, so your refrigerated stuff stays cold and your frozen stuff stays frozen, and people love that. I would say about 90% of our customers hate DoorDash. They do not want it at all.

There’s a lady who loves our service. She lives in a senior living apartment and keeps the door unlocked for us because she uses a walker and can’t get around well. We bring the groceries in for her and put them on her table. One time when I delivered to her, I heard her struggling behind a door. I asked, “Do you want me to come back?” because I had other delivery windows to make. I did the rest of my deliveries and when I returned I could still hear her struggling. She had fallen and couldn’t get up. I asked if I could come in, and she said yes so I helped her onto the couch and left her groceries on the table. The next time I saw her, she said she had dealt with a DoorDash worker who just left her groceries by her door. Her requests were completely ignored, and the worker was very rude and not personable.

It’s easy to sit behind a desk and look at a screen to see how you can save a couple bucks, but not when you’re dealing with actual clientele. These aren’t just figures, these are people, and we provide a service they really love. We always heard from our meetings that we were the face of the company. Now they’re losing that face.

writer based in new york

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