Employees at a Trader Joe’s store in Western Massachusetts are looking to become the first unionized location of the cult favorite grocery chain.
A majority of workers at a Trader Joe’s in Hadley support forming an independent union under the name Trader Joe’s United, the union’s organizing committee said in a letter to company chief executive Dan Bane on Saturday. The committee called the union a “necessary next step” and asked Bane to allow a union vote without interference.
The popular grocery chain known for its unique products, neighborhood culture, and low prices was named America’s Best Employer by Forbes in 2019. But in their letter, employees behind the unionization effort say the California-based company has slashed benefits and ignored safety concerns while wages have grown stagnant.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that, in fact, a union is the only way to protect and improve our pay and benefits,” the letter states. “The company’s actions have made this clear.”
The organizing committee also cited a letter sent by Bane in March 2020 to Trader Joe’s employees — who the company dubs “crew members” — in which he discouraged unionization as an effort to “drive discontent” in stores.
Trader Joe’s has over 530 locations nationwide, with 20 stores in Massachusetts, and an estimated revenue of $16.5 billion in 2020. The company faced backlash at the beginning of the pandemic from employees who said Trader Joe’s wasn’t doing enough to protect its workers from the coronavirus.
Crew members involved in the union push in Hadley organized themselves, their letter stated, “with the same instinctive teamwork we use every day to break pallets, work the load, bag groceries, and care for our customers.”
“Together, we dreamt of what our benefits, pay, and working conditions could look like,” the letter continued. “Together, we signed cards. And together, we will win our election and plan for our contract negotiations.”
Workers at other Trader Joe’s stores around the country have moved to organize at various times in recent years, though none have successfully formed a union.
The movement to unionize at Trader Joe’s comes during a recent surge in organized labor at high-profile US companies that have long resisted organized labor, most notably Starbucks and Amazon. An Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted to form the company’s first union last month, and over 240 Starbucks locations across the country have taken steps to form a union since August, including several in and around Boston. Petitions for union representation increased 57 percent from October 2021 through March 2022, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Trader Joe’s declined to comment at this time, instead forwarding a letter the company posted for crew members in the Hadley store that was written by the location’s captain, or manager.
The letter states that the company welcomes “a fair vote if more than 30% of the Crew wants one,” and promises that Trader Joe’s will not delay the voting process “in any way.”
“I believe our store is a great place to work and our compensation, benefits and working conditions are the best in the grocery business,” the letter continued. “But what really matters is what you believe. Whether or not to sign a petition to unionize or vote in favor of a union is your decision to make.”
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