- Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Hadley, Massachusetts, voted in favor of unionization on Thursday, creating the grocery chain’s first employee union.
- The final vote tally was 45 in favor and 31 against, with no challenged ballots, to form a union under Trader Joe’s United, the independent organization that coordinated the vote.
- Workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Minnesota will also hold a union vote next month, while workers at a location in Colorado have also filed for a union election.
The vote in favor of unionization at the Trader Joe’s in Hadley, Massachusetts, could encourage organizing activity at other locations in the popular grocery chain and comes at a time when store workers across the country are pushing for additional rights and protections.
Employees at the Hadley store initiated their union drive to address concerns they’ve had over pay, benefits and safety. In early June, Trader Joe’s United sent a series of tweets noting that the company provided insufficient pay, had cut retirement benefits and had not responded to workers’ concerns over store safety.
“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.
16/22 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.— Trader Joe's United (@TraderJoesUnite) June 6, 2022
In the weeks leading up to the vote, Trader Joe’s has hired a law firm that specializes in thwarting unionization efforts, Maeg Yosef, a Trader Joe’s United organizer, told The Associated Press. The grocer has also improved pay and benefits for some workers, Yosef told the publication, which she said is a way to stem unionization efforts.
“Trader Joe’s is a great place to work and our compensation, benefits, flexibility, and working conditions are among the best when compared to any retailer,” a Trader Joe’s spokesperson told The Associated Press.
After the vote on Thursday, Trader Joe's issued a statement. “We are prepared to immediately begin discussions with union representatives for the employees at this store to negotiate a contract,” the chain said. “We are willing to use any current union contract for a multi-state grocery company with stores in the area, selected by the union representatives, as a template to negotiate a new structure for the employees in this store; including pay, retirement, healthcare, and working conditions such as scheduling and job flexibility.”
The vote follows successful union drives at other major companies, including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and REI. Workers at more than 200 Starbucks stores have agreed to unionize since the first successful union drive at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, in December.
Trader Joe’s United is the latest independent labor organizing group to push for change at major employers. In April, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize as part of an independent organization. Amazon Fresh workers have also formed an independent organizing group, Amazon Workers United, that has been able to win some concessions from the chain, organizer Joseph Fink said.
Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor specializing in labor history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said independent unions have proven effective at drumming up interest from workers and quickly organizing votes. But he said these organizations typically need to form an alliance with established unions that have the resources and legal expertise to help scale unionization drives.
Lichtenstein said Trader Joe’s will likely push to delay the certification of the election: “The standard operating procedure will be that they’ll question the election, they won’t sign a contract. They’ll just delay.”
Unionization efforts are underway at other Trader Joe’s locations. Workers at a Minneapolis store will vote on unionization on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 7 has filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the workers at a Boulder, Colorado, store.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a statement from Trader Joe's following the vote.