- Workers at a Trader Joe’s location in Hadley, Massachusetts, plan to vote on whether to unionize on July 27 and July 28, according to a Tuesday tweet by Trader Joe’s United, the group seeking to organize workers at the store.
- The announcement follows a May letter to Trader Joe’s CEO Dan Bane from workers at the store indicating that “a majority of the crew” at the location favors forming what would be the company’s first union to address concerns about their pay, benefits and safety.
- Efforts by Trader Joe’s employees to organize builds on a wave of unionization drives by workers at other large companies, including Starbucks and Apple.
Trader Joe’s United’s effort to convince associates in the Hadley store to vote in favor of unionizing raises the stakes in a long-simmering dispute between workers for the grocery chain and the company’s management.
According to the group, Bane wrote Trader Joe’s workers in March 2020 to dissuade them from banding together. In a series of tweets in early June, Trader Joe’s United said the grocer subjected workers to what Trade Joe’s United described as “mysterious or inconsistent” performance reviews, cut retirement benefits, didn’t provide enough time off, and sacrificed safety.
“Crew have added the same safety suggestions to our company surveys for years, with no improvements from Trader Joe’s. Instead, the company continues to prioritize profit & the customer experience over our physical well-being. We want to serve our customers – but without pain,” the group tweeted.
Trader Joe’s has acknowledged that the workers are planning to hold a vote later this month, according to a report by the Daily Hampshire Gazette citing a statement from the grocer.
In a sign that the unionization drive in Hadley is inspiring Trader Joe’s employees elsewhere in the country to organize, workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Minneapolis are also considering forming a union, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported in late June.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which oversees labor union activity, notified Trader Joe’s in June that the federal agency has received complaints that the company has retaliated against workers engaging in union-related activities. The NLRB disclosed the allegations in a document released following a Freedom of Information Act request filed by HuffPost.
The union drive gaining steam at Trader Joe’s comes as workers at an Amazon Fresh store in Seattle have been developing an independent union to press for better working conditions. The group, known as Amazon Workers United, has been able to win some concessions, such as free parking, Joseph Fink, one of the group’s organizers, said in a recent interview.
“They have engaged and listened to our concerns, and they have made changes, which is heartening,” Fink said.
The effort by Trader Joe’s workers to unionize comes on the heels of a vote by workers at an Apple store in Towson, Maryland, to form the first union in the tech giant’s retail chain. Workers at a Starbucks location in Buffalo, meanwhile, voted in December to form that company’s first union. More than 100 of the coffee chain’s locations have voted to unionize so far.
The burst of union activity in recent months serves as a clear signal to employers that workers are growing increasingly willing to take action to address grievances, according to David Pryzbylski, a partner at the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, which counts labor and employment among its practice areas.
“Companies desiring to remain union-free should consider proactive measures to insulate themselves from organizing efforts, as waiting until such activity is underway may mean it’s too late,” he wrote in a June 15 blog post.
Jeff Wells contributed reporting to this story.