Trader Joe’s has asked federal officials to cancel the results of the election last week in which workers at a store the grocer operates in Louisville, Kentucky, voted to unionize as part of Trader Joe’s United.
In a Wednesday filing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the chain said it objected to the outcome of the 48-36 vote because several workers at the store and Seth Goldstein, an attorney for the union, attempted to sway the election in their direction.
“The Union’s and the named Crew Members’ (whether acting as agents of the Union or otherwise) unlawful conduct created an atmosphere of fear and coercion and interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a free and fair election and/or created a general atmosphere of fear and reprisal that rendered a free election impossible,” Trader Joe’s said in the document.
Trader Joe’s said the workers had tainted the election process by pressing other store employees to vote in favor of joining the union while they were working and while voting was underway, directing workers whom they believed opposed the union drive not to cast ballots, and “berating and denigrating Crew Members who disagreed with the Union” on social media.
Connor Hovey, an employee at the Louisville Trader Joe’s store who helped organize the election, pushed back at the company in an emailed statement provided by the union.
“It’s interesting that the company is claiming that we tainted the ‘laboratory’ conditions of the election when we have several unfair labor practice charges on file against Trader Joe’s for coercion, intimidation, threats, and surveillance in the weeks leading up to our election,” said Hovey, who was among the workers the grocer named in the document it filed with the NLRB. “We also think it’s interesting that a company with such a progressive image is going to such lengths to delay the results of a fair, democratic process.”
Goldstein also took issue with the claims made by Trader Joe’s. “Greeting workers with solidarity is not a violation of laboratory conditions during a union election. Stop trying to disenfranchise Louisville TJ workers with your hilarious claims!” Goldstein said in a Thursday tweet.
Even as Trader Joe’s and the union spar over the Louisville election, which made the store the third of the grocer’s locations where workers have voted to unionize, the two sides have been negotiating about working conditions for employees at a store in Hadley, Massachusetts, that became the first unionized Trader Joe’s location last July.
In a series of tweets following two days of meetings this week between Trader Joe’s United and the company, the union said it had largely been unsuccessful in winning concessions. Workers from the Louisville store and one in Minneapolis that was the second Trader Joe’s location to unionize, were also present for the talks, the union said.
Trader Joe’s United said its requests included a starting wage of $30 per hour, premium-free healthcare for all workers, a better paid-time-off policy and guaranteed annual retirement contributions — all of which it said the company turned down. “They acknowledged that the company could afford these changes–they just weren’t interested in making them,” the union tweeted.
However, Trader Joe’s United said it was able to reach an agreement with the grocer over several issues, including how to handle leave for jury duty. Still, the union said it was unable to get Trader Joe’s to agree to extend those agreements to all unionized Trader Joe’s stores and would continue to press for one contract.