Hell Yeah, Trader Joe's Is Unionizing

Workers want to “strengthen Trader Joe’s as a whole and help the company return to its core values.”

A Trader Joe's in Hadley, Massachusetts made history this week when it became the first ever Trader Joe's to form a union in a 45-31 vote.

The union, which is called Trader Joe's Unite, released a statement just after the vote was taken. In it, the union said the victory was historic but not surprising, and that "winning is just the beginning." The union will now enter into negotiations with Trader Joe's.

"We now begin the difficult work of sitting down at the negotiating table as equals with our employer, and securing a contract that will benefit and protect us, the crew, instead of the company's bottom line," the statement said.

According to employees, that contract won't be boilerplate. The Daily Hampshire Gazette quoted Maeg Yosef, spokesperson for Trader Joe's United, as saying:

"We're going to be negotiating a different contract, specifically for us, that the crew wants to see. We won't be taking any boilerplate template contracts."

The Hadley store began its unionizing efforts in May, when it sent an open letter to Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe's. In that letter, the union referenced a letter sent to employees in March 2020 that said unions "drive discontent" in stores.

"Since that letter arrived in our mailboxes, Trader Joe's has continued to slash our benefits as our wages stagnate and our safety concerns go unaddressed," the May letter read. "We've come to the conclusion that, in fact, a union is the only way to protect and improve our pay and benefits. The company's actions have made this clear."

The letter said the group formed its own union after it didn't garner attention from another union, organizing "with the same teamwork we use every day to break pallets, work the load, bag groceries, and take care of our customers."

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Trader Joe's disputes claims made by the Hadley store's team members.

"Trader Joe's offers its Crew Members a package of pay, benefits, and working conditions that is among the best in the grocery business," Nakia Rohde, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's told The Post. "We are prepared to immediately begin discussions with union representatives for the employees at this store to negotiate a contract."

The Hadley store may not be alone for long. In late June, employees at a Minnesota Trader Joe's voted to file for a union election. That store will hold its election August 11 and 12.

The news joins a number of other headlines this year about high-profile unionizations, including those at Starbucks and Amazon. And there may be more to come. According to the National Labor Relations Board, during the first nine months of fiscal year 2022 (October 1–June 30), union representation petitions filed at the NLRB have increased 58%. Here's how you can show your support for workers' unionization efforts.