Organizers have begun a unionization campaign at the upscale supermarket chain Trader Joe’s after workers at a branch in Hadley, Massachusetts, announced they were forming a union and intend to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election.
It would be the first unionized Trader Joe’s store out of more than 530 locations in the US. Workers are organizing independently, citing the similar framework of the Amazon Labor Union, which is not affiliated with traditional, established labor unions.
“We organized ourselves. With the same instinctive teamwork we use every day to break pallets, work the load, bag groceries, and care for our customers, we joined together to look out for each other and improve our workplace together,” workers wrote in an announcement letter to Trader Joe’s CEO, Dan Bane.
The union organizing announcement is the latest among a wave of union campaigns at corporations that have previously staved off unionization, including at Starbucks, Amazon, REI, and union elections filed at Target and Apple.
Early in the pandemic, Bane sent a company-wide memo to all employees expressing opposition for unionization within the company. In their announcement, workers cited the company-wide letter, arguing that the company has slashed wages and benefits for workers since then, and they see unionizing as the only way to protect themselves from further cuts.
“We’re organizing because it feels more and more like we don’t have a say in decisions that the company makes, decisions that directly impact our day-to-day lives, and the health and wellbeing of us and our families,” said Tony Falco, a worker at the Trader Joe’s store in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Jamie Edwards, a crew member at the Trader Joe’s in Hadley, explained they became interested in organizing a union in the beginning of the pandemic, when workers were not allowed to wear protective equipment initially because of concerns from management that it would scare customers, and other safety concerns expressed by workers were dismissed. Edwards said when CDC guidelines changed, mask policies and caps on the number of customers permitted in the store were not enforced.
Edwards, who is non-binary, also noted they had to show legal paperwork to change their nametags from their dead name.
“I want customers to know this is an effort to give the crew members a say in the way the store is run and to make this company live up to the image that attracts them to the store in the first place,” said Edwards.
Maeg Yosef, an employee at the Trader Joe’s Hadley location for 18 years, said when she first started then, she didn’t think workers at the store needed a union, but that has changed overtime as benefits have been chipped away, pay has stagnated, and safety issues have gone unaddressed.
“I’ve watched so many crew deal with work related injuries and chronic pain, and have been hurt myself. I’ve seen crew members lose their health insurance during cancer treatment,” said Yosef. “Over time it became clear to me that the company was not taking care of us in the same way it once had, and it was time to do something about it. That something is a union.”
She argued that Trader Joe’s reputation as an amazing place to work no longer reflects reality. Yosef noted that Trader Joe’s corporate has yet to respond to the union organizing announcement, but their store manager has promised not to delay the election process in any way.
Trader Joe’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.