Workers at a Trader Joe’s location in Minneapolis voted overwhelmingly to unionize last week, becoming the second group of employees at the grocery chain to elect to formally organize under the newly launched union Trader Joe’s United.
Fifty-five workers at the store, at 721 S. Washington Ave., cast votes in favor of unionization, while five voted against it and there were three challenged ballots, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversaw the vote count on Friday. The challenged votes will not be counted since they would not change the outcome of the election, an NLRB spokesperson said in an email.
In a statement on Twitter Friday evening, Trader Joe’s United hailed what it called a “landslide victory,” which the group said reflects its conviction “that Crew members from stores across the country can work together to gain the pay, benefits and working conditions we deserve.”
Both sides have five business days after the election to lodge objections over the outcome of the vote, according to the NLRB. Once the agency certifies a representative for the employees, Trader Joe’s is required to “begin bargaining in good faith with the union,” the NLRB said.
A Trader Joe’s spokesperson told The New York Times that while the company has concerns over how the “new rigid legal relationship will impact Trader Joe’s culture,” it is ready to “immediately begin discussions” with their collective bargaining representative to negotiate a contract following the vote by its workers in Minneapolis.
The vote by the Minneapolis Trader Joe’s workers to join the union follows a similar decision late last month by associates at a store the chain operates in Hadley, Massachusetts, who voted by a 45-31 margin to make their store the grocer’s first unionized location. In a statement following that election, Trader Joe’s said it “offers its Crew Members a package of pay, benefits, and working conditions that is among the best in the grocery business,” but is ready to negotiate contract terms for employees at the store.
United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 7 has filed a petition for a union election with the NLRB on behalf of Trader Joe’s workers at a Boulder, Colorado, store, but a date for a vote has not yet been set, according to the NLRB.
Trader Joe’s is dealing with growing interest by its workers in unionizing against a backdrop of recent successful unionization efforts by employees at other retailers, including Starbucks, Apple and Amazon.
While workers at Trader Joe’s and other retailers have been building momentum in their efforts to organize at some locations, that doesn’t necessarily mean employees at other stores will agree that unionizing is the best way forward, said Sid Lewis, an attorney at Jones Walker LLP in New Orleans who advises retailers on navigating employment and labor laws.
“In the end, the union's only going to get what the company agrees to provide. It would surprise me if the union contracts end up being more attractive than what the employees have in the non-union stores,” Lewis said. “It's going to be very interesting to see if … the employees at the non-union stores, realizing what employees have to pay in dues and fees and assessments and maybe some of the freedoms they may lose in a union operation,” opt to unionize.