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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Instacart is laying off nearly 1,900 of its part-time employees who assemble customer orders at grocery stores, including a 10-person union at a Kroger-owned store in Skokie, Illinois, as Motherboard first reported and the company confirmed to Axios.

The big picture: Instacart is cutting positions that come with employment status and related benefits — an anomaly within the gig economy and even Instacart's own business, which relies on independent-contractor delivery drivers.

Between the lines: The grocery delivery company, which reportedly plans to go public this year, says the cuts are a result of changes in its partnerships with certain stores that prefer to have their own staff assemble customer orders and hand them off to Instacart's drivers.

  • "With certain markets or retailers, including Kroger-owned stores, Instacart's current use of [in-store shoppers] is significantly more expensive on a cost-per-delivery basis than" having independent-contractor Instacart shoppers handle the entire order assembly and delivery, an attorney representing the company said in a letter to the union.
  • The company also says affected workers will be able to apply for some of those store staff jobs as well as Instacart's own in-store positions in their areas.
  • It's unclear how many of either jobs will be available or how many workers will ultimately end up in them.

"We know this is an incredibly challenging time for many as we move through the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re doing everything we can to support in-store shoppers through this transition," the company said in a statement to Axios.

  • Yes, but: A spokesperson for Kroger, whose stores were home to hundreds of the affected jobs including the union positions, told CNN the grocery giant "was not involved in Instacart's decision to suspend its in-store operations model."
  • An Instacart spokesperson was not aware of that statement when reached.

Flashback: Instacart joined Uber, Lyft and others on a successful campaign to convince California voters to approve a ballot measure in November ensuring gig companies can keep treating their workers as contractors and not employees.

Go deeper

GOP-led Arizona board calls for end to election audit

Ballots are counted at the Maricopa County Election Department after the presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on Nov. 5. Photo: Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday urged the Arizona state Senate's GOP-led audit of its 2020 presidential election results to be called off in a letter Monday.

Why it matters: The letter underscores divisions in the GOP between loyalists of former President Trump and those denouncing baseless election claims, which saw Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) ousted last Wednesday as the third-highest ranking House Republican after speaking out on the matter.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
50 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Deadly Cyclone Tauktae leaves trail of destruction across India

A police officer helps a public transport driver cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India, on May 17. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 16 people in India after making landfall in Gujarat Monday, packing 100mph winds, and sweeping across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, per Reuters.

The big picture: The storm unleashed heavy rains and winds as authorities continued to grapple with surging infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from Gujarat, and ports, airports and vaccination centers shut in the state and Mumbai, Reuters reports. Tauktae weakened from a Category 3 storm into a "severe cyclonic storm" Tuesday morning local time.

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