Delivering Food and Fairness

Phill Roh is the Administrative Manager at Atkinson.

Hello friend. ICYMI, in celebration of the one year anniversary of the drive to unionize Foodora’s delivery workers, the corporation announced that it is exiting the Canadian market and has declared bankruptcy with $4.7 million in debt. This is two months after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled its delivery workers are dependent contractors and have the right to unionize

When I heard the news, part of me thought about the glut of food delivery apps that misclassify their workers and gouge restaurant owners, so good riddance. But the bigger part of me couldn’t help but feel a huge sense of injustice and enormous empathy for the nearly 3,000 Foodora couriers who have fought so hard for decent work and whose employment precarity just increased at the worst-possible time. 

Since the launch of the union drive Foodora has been my go-to platform whenever I get the delivery-itch. As head of Atkinson’s very large admin department (just me), the organization has also been using Foodora extensively for the past year. In alignment with our social procurement principles we’ve been supporting the Foodora union drive and its workers through platform usage and by writing “I support Justice for Foodora couriers!” in the comments field of our orders. Who would’ve thought that a union drive would make one willing to spend more at a business! 

The union drive was being organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers who created a great online resource for consumers to support the drive. Early on, I had placed a delivery order for the office and eagerly awaited the worker’s arrival with a union sign-up sheet, printed flyer and (partially) memorized talking points ready-to-go. When the worker arrived, I immediately jumped into my lines and thrusted my clipboard into their hands. By pure chance the worker was actually one of the union drive organizers and we had a very pleasant chat about the Foundation’s mission to strengthen movements for decent work and a fair economy. More recently, in the early days of the pandemic, a Foodora worker arrived at my home and was greatly appreciative of the order comments at a time when our society was still taking essential workers for granted. 

I’ll miss sending these love notes to Foodora workers through the app because #SolidarityIsDelicious. I was willing to accept capitalism into my heart by using a service from a parent company with over $1.8 billion in annual revenues as long as its essential workers were on a path to unionization. 

I thought a union drive of platform workers was a pretty cool idea. Where could we go from here? Here’s what’s cooking my goose:

In lieu of delivery love notes, I have now been passing the days eating my feelings, a great two-fer that reduces my lockdown anxiety and helps keep my favourite local takeout spots in business. I only hope that you and my colleagues will recognize me when we meet again!