More tech workers are starting to unionize

But the road is longer for independent contractors

Within the last two months, two groups of gig workers have effectively organized and joined unions. The first was a group of 40 San Francisco-based workers for scooter startup Spin that joined Teamsters Local 665. The second was a group of Instacart shoppers in Chicago who voted last weekend to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546.

Unions, which act as an intermediary between workers and their employers, advocate on behalf of employees for better wages, working conditions and other benefits through collective bargaining. Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had weekly earnings of $1,095, compared to $892 for non-union members in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the right to form or join a labor union is only available to those classified as employees; because these Spin and Instacart workers were employees, rather than independent contractors, they were eligible to organize. The majority of these workers are responsible for tasks like scooter deployment and collections, operations and shift leadership.

“This is significant because this is an industry that was based on independent contractors with little to no workplace protections and now they’re becoming employees and workers are organizing,” Teamsters Joint Council 7 Political Director Doug Bloch said in a statement about Spin at the time. “It’s a model for the tech industry moving forward.”